Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tell me a story, tell me a story

Tell me a story, remember what you said

You promised me you said you would

You got to give in so I’ll be good

Tell me a story, then I’ll go to bed ~ Jimmy Boyd.

Stories are the glue that holds generations together.  My father used to sing this  Jimmy Boyd song in the car.  Why in the car & only in the car? And why only the chorus?  He used to sing it in the car as we travelled north to my Aunt's ~ story~teller unparalleled in this or any other generation. Never accurate, mind, but why let a little thing like accuracy stand in the way of a good story?

I come from a family of story~tellers.  My father told some woolly tales that may or may not be true ~ or may simply be an embellishment of fact.  It runs in the family.  So when the first of our lot came along the only thing I was pretty sure I knew how to do was tell the child stories.   We began when he was only days old with Thomas Merton.  I was reading Merton at the time so that is what I read aloud to my son as he suckled at my breast & we graduated fairly quickly to C.S Lewis. Then we got a clutch of littlies all together in the middle & had glorious fun with Where the Wild Things Are, The Bunyip of Berkerly Creek, Dreadful David, Goodnight, Owl.  By the time Star arrived I was so tired I'd start her off & she told me stories until we fell asleep together.

There is absolutely nothing better than being snuggled up with the people you love best in the world & telling stories.  The best stories, of course, are the ones about you.  They are even better if they are true stories about the time before you can remember because  we're all narcissists at heart.  When mine were very little I used to tell them, periodically, about, " The day that you were born."  They never tired of it.

Joss was the first grandchild.  He was a November baby born in South East Queensland in what should have been blistering hot weather.  It wasn't.  It was a freezing cold November & I had nothing warm for the child to wear.  We had to rush out & buy him some little jumpers & long suits.  His excited grandparents had arrived in anticipation of this extraordinary event.  I would tell him how his first name was the only one his father & I could agree on.  Who would have thought choosing a name could be so difficult?  Dearest wished to honour his grandfather but Pap had really awful old fashioned names that I was not about to bestow on my much wanted, much anticipated, dearly beloved first born.  I know these names are gaining in popularity again but I still dislike them.  However I wanted to be generous & so I agreed to use Pap's surname as a second Christian name ~ & wouldn't you know it!  Versions of this name are now extraordinarily popular.

Believe it or not the twins were twice as easy.  We'd eliminated all the names neither of us would consider first time around & were left with a small handful we could both bear to live with.  The only winter I've ever been warm was the winter I was pregnant with twins. They were also the only babies to be born at a reasonable hour but it then snowed & the nappies froze on the outside line.  "There were 30 nurses at your delivery," I told the boys, "& every single one of them cried."  That's true.  We didn't go into how hard I fought for a natural delivery [almost unheard of with twins at the time] which is the reason why there were so many nurses pressed up against the delivery room walls.  Most had never seen a woman deliver twins naturally.

And then we moved to the island, which made the stories far more exciting.  It was always at night.  There was the boat ride & the car or ambulance.  Liddy, when she finally got moving, was in such a hurry that Dearest had a meltdown when he realised he needed fuel or we were never going to reach the hospital.  And she was quick.  We spent almost the entire labour in the shower.  Wonderful way to spend labour I can assure you!  And Liddy got the name we'd picked out for a girl 3 babies earlier: a family name; a name we both liked; a name that could be traced back in the family for generations.  Dearest, who has a quite wicked sense of humour & was giddy with relief that this baby, born only days after we moved into our half finished house, was finally here safe & sound, went home to the expectant grandmother, for whom this child would be named, shook his head mournfully  & stated that Jonathon James [or whatever it was we had agreed on for a boy] was a wonderfull name for a boy.  As my mother's face fell & she tried to hide her disappointment he added, "But it hardly suits our Liddy Rose".  I'm sure, in that moment, my mother would have dearly liked to clobber her son~in~law!  I believe she wept.

And then along came Star.  Now Star, who also decided to arrive at night & be difficult up until the very moment she popped her head out into this chaotic world, is the child I named without consultation.  Um, yeah, I really, really did.  I knew that Dearest liked the short version of her name but I'm a Celtist at heart & I wanted a Celtic name for my child. [Liddy is lucky.  If I'd known the Scots version of her name back in the days she would have got it & been totally mortified.]  So I put down my name of choice on her papers figuring if Dearest really had a problem he would simply shorten it to the name he liked.  My husband is a forbearing man.  He just thanked his stars I'd resisted the urged to use the Welsh Angharad anywhere.  Now there's a name I always loved & never got to use!

I told my children the story of choosing their names.  I told them who in the family they were named for.  Liddy, who shares a name with my opera singing cousin can't sing a note while Star, who is named for the artistic cousin, sings like a carolling butcher bird. Again & again my kids would ask me to tell them about the day that they were born.  They never tired of it. 

Then one day it just stopped.  Worse than boring, it was embarrassing.  They didn't want to know.  I can't forget.  Every time I shower my body reminds me it wasn't always this peculiar shape or texture. I am shaped like one of those little graven images of fertility goddesses ~ & how accurate were they!  My body is a testimony of love.  See, I can say silently to a raging teenager, I sheltered you in here.  I loved you enough to bear the wounds on my vanity: a putty~tummy little hands liked to mold like play dough; the sagging breasts that still have a long way to go before they achieve African renown of being able to toss one casually over my shoulder for the child riding pick~a~back to suckle;  the sunken, sleep~deprived eyes;  the hips that unexpectedly & unwelcomingly have imperceptibly widened wider than my shoulders turning me pear~shaped!  Pear~shaped!

Now I would be the first to agree it's not a pretty look & keeping it modestly clothed is the kindest thing to do for all our sakes but honestly, why would I trade it in for one of these plastic models minus the bumps & crinkles?  Every crease, every sagging lump tells a story of love, of a special day that all these years later I still recall with startling clarity.  I will not be cowed by a culture of the perfect, the pristine, the unscarred.  Anything worthwhile costs something & as it stands I get to trade this body in for something better ~ eventually.  Meanwhile it stands as a testimony to love.  See, I have loved you with an everlasting love...


alecat said...

My children still enjoy hearing their birth stories, especially on their birthdates. Each of them was such a different experience.

One of the best parts of the stories is when I was in labor with Mariposa and Maestro was singing to her to keep her calm. We didn't know what her sex was until she was born, but he was always adamant that there was a sister growing in my belly. When he finally came to meet her, he burst into the room asking for her by name before we'd told him if he had a brother or sister.

We also chose the names of our children pretty carefully, surprising my family with our son's name as it wasn't traditional English. His names are Spanish, after my husband's heritage. Mariposa's are Hebrew in origin, but go very well with our surname.

loving, laughing and learning said...

ah the great name debate, its funny often the story of the child's names is just as detailed as the birth (well at least for my kids). Im still working on this for the third time and it will be just as detailed a story as the others.

Ruby said...

I love to hear my friend's birthing stories! As you say, it is a labour of love and we bear the scars. Well, I have been blaming that for 24 years, why change my story now?
Names, ah, headaches! Hubby and I liked a lot of girls names in common but all three boys were named by him. The last one had no name for almost a week as I tried to stick to my guns, but in the end, I caved. Of course, now I love those names, they grow on you like the dear little person who carries them. But I would have loved my Rueben, Samuel and Jordan just as well!

MamaOlive said...

beautiful! The story, you, all of it.

seekingmyLord said...

I so enjoy hearing such stories!

I loved the name of my daughter the moment my husband said it...and he even told me that he had come up with a name I would love before he said it. (That man knows me too well.)

Jan Lyn said...

I loved seeing your photos here-of the twins below as well. Our kiddos like to hear their stories, though one is getting to the age of rolling his eyes (for our repeating it). So great how God intended families. Yours is beautiful and you are too, from the inside out! :)

Ember said...

Yes, my children, growing up together all very close in age, have created a memory bank of stories. You know how, if you tell or write down a dream when first you wake up, you can fix it in your memory, otherwise it fades and is forgotten? Something similar seems to be the way with childhood memories, and the bank of stories has given my children access to knowledge and understanding about childhood experience I think they'd have otherwise forgotten.