Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I like stories.

I like stories. It’s one of the things that’s kept me interested in my job, and my life, when otherwise I’d be tearing my hair out. Everyone (and I do mean everyone) has an interesting story, and I found that if I truly listen I can find a commonality with nearly everyone – and a likeableness as well.

I come by this love of stories from listening to my dad, who can sure tell a story. Boy can he tell a story.

Take, for instance, the topic of genealogy - not in general, but just our family. And not my mom’s family – just my dad’s. Now, dad used to loooove to research and present his findings to the family. His findings were fascinating – it seems that we are related directly to all sorts of important historical figures and all manner of bloodlines. My dad’s family was so rich in varied and high class blood lines, that it was almost too much to take in.

Years after much of this information was discovered and trotted out to family, friends and church congregations, my mom and sisters decided to double check before committing it to inked documents. They discovered that much of our illustrious family wasn’t quite OUR family. Dad would find a name or a story that interested him and sort of seemed like it might belong to our family. Or it SHOULD belong anyway. He’d streeeeetch the family tree branch over, bungee cord it into place on the new more interesting tree, and call it good. Sometimes the name was the same (agin, campbell, larkin, hixson) and sometimes only close (hixon, akin, etc) but EVERY story was a good story.

“Why, did you know kids, that your great great great great great great grandmother was gutted by Indians, and left to die in a hollow tree? But she didn’t die, did she? She lived to tell her story and produce a HUGE family. She finally died at 87, beloved by 6 generations and famous throughout New England. Why, her story was made in to a movie!

Okay, so the story is true – this horrible thing did happen to a young woman in the 1600s. And she DID have a name similar to one found in our family tree. But she was NOT our relative, sad to say, because it’s a fantastic story.

We laugh, but never in front of him. We NEVER point out that he’s wrong or is exaggerating. It would hurt his feelings, certainly, but even worse, it would make him scowl his terrible scowl and perhaps yell. This is a frightening experience – even for you, dear reader.

But we do chuckle later, in a fond, exasperated, and sometimes awestruck way. You have to be awestruck by the intricacy, the magnitude, the sheer balls of his stories.

And we do lightheartedly mock, as we pass a Hispanic-owned business, “Why, do you know, Emily that your great great great great great uncle Matthew was shanghaied by the Spanish armada? Yep! Plucked right off the shore of Scotland worked almost to DEATH by those rotten inhuman Spaniards.They eventually released him in the shallow waters off the Spanish shore. He swam to safety, and was saved by a beautiful Spanish senorita, whom he later married. I suspect that before they married, Matthew added Martinez to his name – Mathew Campbell Martinez, which is why it's been so hard to trace the lineage. He and this beautiful woman (and she WAS beautiful - I believe it's her portrait that hangs in the national gallery) had several children all with Spanish names. Later, his children emigrated to Mexico. It would not surprise me one bit if Martinez Tacos-To-Go belonged to some of your cousins.

I would not even TRY to check that documentation, would you? It’s a story. But it’s a darned good one, don’t you think? And it's actually pretty typical of a Dad story. I'd certainly like it to be true.

Anyway – being raised by a story teller has created in me …um.... maybe a slight tendency to exaggerate and embellish. I don’t mean to lie, really I don’t. And even if I realize that I'm embroidering a bit, I certainly don’t intended to falsify. Just to entertain. And we all 5 do it – another commonality, I suppose.

So – that’s why I enjoy the stories of others. I appreciate that a tale is interesting, that it is unique to the teller and maybe to the family. And like Dad, I often hear one and kind of wish it was my own.

For instance I know a fellow whose mother (1st generation American of Yugoslavian parents), was a war widow in WWII. She used the death benefits from her first husband to open a boarding house. One of her boarders was a poor but handsome and brilliant graduate student from Colombia (the country, not the city). They fell in love, married and had 4 children. And that, my friends, is true – and that is probably the LEAST interesting bit of their family lore. Now, if only I could understand how to link this to our family. Perhaps, Matthew Campbell Martinez’ children actually emigrated to Colombia, not Mexico. And eventually married into the Salgado family? There we go! I bet I’m actually a distant cousin of this Salgado friend! Who knew!


Sally said...

Loved this! Now I know why I love listening/reading Diane's stories! Sheer story telling talent, Hixon Family!

Suzy said...

So, speaking of stories...I just finished a detective novel of dear old Dad's - it had a lot of "bad language" in it. Each word was carefully blocked out with black fine tip marker. Was that Dad? It wasn't Mom's kind of book, so I have to think that was Dad protecting his 5 adult children from corruption. (or maybe he was thinking of the 12 grandchildren?...)