I love stories. More than maybe anything else I love stories. And my dad tells better stories than anyone on earth. He has a way of telling a story of a time that he may even be ashamed of, and finding the funny parts about it and sharing it in a manner that can make you jealous that it isn't your story. His charisma is infectious, and he is the guy that you find yourself turning to and saying, "tell them about the time..." because you know if you tell it yourself you will be turning to him the entire time expecting him to inject his dry wit and timing to hone the story into a better one.
We grew up with stories, and we gathered around them as a family, treating them as our heritage, a stove of memories that we can always warm ourselves by, reliving them every time we get together; particularly relishing the times when a stranger approaches our fire so that we can share the feeling that we got hearing the story for the first time vicariously through them.
I remember once telling my mom that I was worried, because after hearing my dad's amazing, shocking and exciting stories I wouldn't have any stories that were even close to that level of greatness to share with my kids or friends. I was pretty young, and even at that age, I recall trying to craft a story about something that had happened in my adolescent life that would come close to reclaiming that spark of fascination that even the most mundane of my dad's stories commanded in me every time he told us anything about his past life. My mom was a paragon of parenting and positive support and told me that it was a great story, but as it turns out I had nothing to fear.
Apparently we can effortlessly take other's stories and make them our own to tell to the new people that come into our lives who haven't had the benefit of sharing the experiences with us. And the best part of it is that we get to build ourselves from the ground up as the story teller that we want to be. We can take the building blocks scattered through our lives by the people that we love, fear, respect and trust and use them to create our impregnable visage of the best teller of tales that we can imagine.
But the real reason that I had nothing to worry about was that, little did I know, stories are the way we assuage our insecurities and relate to other people in our lives as children; and for me and many others, as adults as well. So as I read countless scores of books as a young child into high school from Hardy Boys to Homer's Iliad (largely thanks to my amazing mother who taught me what it means to really love literature) I put myself into the situations of the heroes I was reading about much in the same way I did with my father in his stories of neighborhood shenanigans as a child and rabble rousing in high school. He was my image of the way to become a man, and I couldn't have asked for a finer one. He gave me the oral history of growing up and learning my place in the world, and provided me with the tools to give it to my peers and my own son. I have continued it with my own story telling and taken pieces of other people's tales and experiences and mixed them in as well.
I learned the tradition well as anyone who knows me even remotely can attest. There is rarely a situation, or instance where I do not respond to a situation or remark from someone with a story of something that has happened to me or that I have heard about happening to someone else. Which is why I am a dangerous and tiring conversational partner. Beware epic story telling sessions as you inch toward the door and I speed up my speech to finish 'this one more story of the time that happened to me, I know you need to go, I am sorry I will hurry'.
But my favorite stories have something to teach. Just like most of my dad's were precautionary tales, that although funny, were usually a warning of the bad situations that you can quickly find yourself in if you don't think things through; many of the stories by other story tellers that have drawn me in create characters so effortlessly and completely that I can effortlessly relate to them and then these people that I get to love in such a short time do things that are either so brilliant, good or noble that I aspire to their greatness, or they louse things up so completely and in such understandable ways that I vow to never repeat their mistakes. I learn from others four year degrees at the school of hard knocks. Unfortunately i just learn how to improve on their failure, but then I look back with the clarity of one surveying a disaster from the smouldering edge of the other side of it can achieve.
I even went to school and learned to be a better story teller and got a super useful degree in Theatre. But while I was there, I learned from one of the most amazing story tellers I ever met. My friend Mac crafts a story at a pace that demands you adhere to it, and appreciate its meandering despite the time it might add to the story running its course. You relish the journey, and it makes the culmination somehow more satisfying. I learned to build a home for the culmination of a story in the details leading up to it from Mac and it made me change the way I see the world. Even as an adult, telling stories taught me to be the person that I am becoming in a big way. I think in many ways I am still in the kindergarten class of my life learning why those kids are mad that I knocked over their block castle. Only the kids are the friends of a friend that I was just introduced to at a dinner party and their block castles are their beloved cats that I just told them were categorically so aloof that they are unworthy of being loved. I should have told them a story about my cat instead.
All of that being said, I have decided I want to tell you guys some stories that you will likely not care about, but by George I am going to tell them with gusto. I am going to tell you about my great-granddad, Papa as soon as I get some time to scan some awesome pictures that my mom got me, so look for that.
Boy I really got on my high horse with this one. Sorry, more smarmy sarcasm next time I promise.