We Are All Stories

The Boyhood of Raleigh

The Boyhood of Raleigh by Sir John Everett Millais, oil on canvas, 1870.

Everyone is filled with stories because everyone is a collection of stories. Most people won’t become writers, but among family and friends these stories will live on long after those who have told them are gone.

Writers or not, we all have stories.

My Mom told a lot of stories. She grew up poor in South London during the depression, lived through the blitz, got bombed out of her family’s flat, and joined the British Army the day before Hitler shot himself. All by the age of eighteen. She had many more adventures in a life that took her from Malta to San Diego after she met and married my Dad. And she always wanted to write them down, but she never did.

This is one of my greatest regrets. I should have encouraged her more while she was here and while she still had her memories. She’s gone now, and while I remember a lot of her stories, I’ll never get to hear them again and or give them directly to Anna. No typewritten pages, no recordings. Just my memory and my Dad’s.

I still plan to write them down as best as I can someday. I want Anna to know what it was like for her Grandma Dolly to live through a war. It will be a novel, since I’ll have to fill in too many details to make it non-fiction. It will be something to give to her, but it could have been more.

My Dad has a lot of stories too. We’ve been recording these—turning on the video camera as he’s talking and getting them on tape. One I always remembered, and liked enough to include in A Smile for Anna, was this one which I told in his words.

This was when Dolly and I were living in Malta—early sixties—she wanted to get our couch reupholstered. It was an old couch, we’d bought it used and it was in good shape, but the fabric was starting to come loose. So she told me she heard from a friend about this guy in Valetta—old Maltese guy, supposed to be the best.  He could stop by during the day while she’s home and take care of it. It would take about a week or so.

So day by day, the work is getting done, and it’s looking pretty good. And there’s this guy I work with, his wife’s thinking about getting a chair refinished, so I asked Dolly the gentleman’s name and where his shop is. She tells me his name’s Joseph Calleia, which is odd, because there’s that famous actor named Joe Calleia, but this is Malta and you can’t toss a rock out a window without hitting somebody named Calleia so I figure it’s just a coincidence.

I go and give the directions to the guy I work with, and he can’t find the shop. Meanwhile, Dolly’s hands are covered with cuts, and I finally put two and two together. I decide to come home early one day to see if I can catch this ‘Joseph Calleia.’ Well, no surprise, he’s not there, and Dolly says ‘He just left; you couldn’t have missed him by more than minute or two.’ And I said ‘Really?’ That’s when she confessed. She got behind in her housekeeping money, and instead of asking me for more, she cooked up this whole scheme. Well, she did such a good job on the couch that I told her she earned the money and gave her a little extra on top of it.

I found a place for that story in the book, and I’ll find places for his other stories in my other writing. As long as I have them, I can share them with Anna and with the world.

Everyone has a story. Here’s another one. Last Sunday, I went to Mass at The Carmel of Maria Regina. Afterwards, I was chatting with an older gentleman I only know as a regular communicant at the Carmel. Though I hardly know him, he entertained me with a great story about a trip he took to Moscow with a replica of Our Lady of Fatima. First of all, she got a seat on the plane, though knowing Our Lady’s humility, she probably flew coach. When they got to Moscow, they were planning on carrying her through Red Square, but the area was cordoned off. One of his fellow pilgrims recognized the barrier as one similar to the barriers used at Fatima itself. Having volunteered to set them up on more than one occasion, he also knew how to take them apart. So the group managed to process with Our Lady into the square and crown her in front of the Kremlin.

I’m surprised they didn’t get arrested. Maybe he left that part out.

Or maybe he’s a little prone to exaggeration. Nothing wrong with that, especially in the service of an entertaining story.

I told him he should write stories like these down, or at least record them I hope he takes my advice, and doesn’t put it off like my Mom did.

I also hope he doesn’t mind me borrowing that story someday.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear a story. If it’s a short one, you can share it in a comment. If it’s longer, you are welcome to include a link. Thanks!

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One thought on “We Are All Stories

  1. I remember, years ago, I think I was in Junior High, and I was sick and home from school. I was laying on the couch and my grandfather came over and sat down in the rocking chair next to me. And he started talking… and the stories he told… and I regret, to this day, not having my tape recorder there to record every word…

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