2014.07.31 Tell me a story, tell me a story


“Tor-wee, Damma, tor-ee.” My two-year-old granddaughter Caroline has a little trouble with her S’s and sometimes her R’s, but she has no trouble communicating that she wants to hear a story.

Rosie says it’s a new thing. At night before bed she asks for stories and Rosie and Taylor comply, telling tales of their childhoods before Caroline drops off to sleep.

Rosie enchants her with simple stories—how she got the scar on her knee at Sarah Bentley’s birthday party (falling down because she wore the slippery sandals that Grandma had told her not to wear), how Ben cut her hair when she was three, how she cut her own hair when she was four, how Ben was walking through the house with his fishing rod and hooked her in the cheek, how one-year-old Maddie danced on the coffee table with wild abandon and danced right off the table, how she ran through the back yard barefoot and stepped on a bee—and Caroline can’t get enough.

Her dad tells how he got severe burns on his foot and leg when he was a little boy, about the 5K mud run he and his friend Ryan did in Little Rock, and about the time he and his cousin hid real Easter eggs that weren’t found until Christmas. 

When I arrived at the airport in New Orleans a couple weeks ago, Rosie warned me to be ready for it, to be thinking of stories. They can be short or long, happy or sad. Caroline doesn’t care. She listens with full rapt attention. She’s a great audience. And after she hears yours, she has Rosie retell her current favorite story.

At a recent birthday party she was following the big kids outside and they shut the sliding door on her fingers before she made it through.

After that she got ice cream (always a good thing for a child whose parents serve her plain ice on a stick for a snack). Later she was running to the swings and tripped on a pile of sticks. She scraped her knees and then got a Band-Aid with cars on it (always a good thing for a child who loves stickers in all their forms, shapes and sizes).

As Rosie tells the fingers-in-the-door story, Caroline interjects with the key words of each episode...fingers owie, ice cream, swing, knees, cars (on the Band-Aid).

It’s a magical thing to watch as Rosie provides the details and Caroline’s face lights up with the satisfaction of hearing her story unfold.

As soon as we got settled in the back seat of the car for the ride home to Baton Rouge, Caroline turned to me and said, “Tor-wee, Damma, tor-ee.”

I launched into one and then stopped myself. It was the story about Rosie cutting her own hair. Rosie looked at me in the rearview mirror and smiled. 

She had already told Caroline about the time when she was four years old and locked herself in the bathroom with a pair of scissors. She realized mid-stream that she was going to give Caroline ideas—and they weren’t going to be good ones—but she had continued with the story of how she hung her head over the trash basket and hacked away at her hair with the scissors.

Immediately, Caroline had asked for the story again, pantomiming cutting her own hair.

I started in with another tale and stopped myself—again and again. Every story I could think of seemed to involve sad or bad elements or would set a poor example.

I finally settled on Ben’s poop story. 

“Poopoo, Damma, poopoo,” she now says when she wants to hear how after eight days of empty diapers, Uncle Ben, as an eight-month old baby, pooped all over Grandpa when he was seated in an outdoor restaurant at the start of vacation. It’s family legend, that poop episode, and Caroline will likely regale future generations with it.

She can change the wallpaper on your iPad faster than you can blink, delete photos on her dad’s iPhone, and find the toddler shoes on the Zappos website without any assistance among other technological feats, but it’s so heartening that Caroline is enthralled with simple stories, even the same ones told over and over. 

At the pace she’s collecting stories, she’ll have a vast store of them when her own grandchildren clamor, “Tor-wee, Damma, tor-ee.”