My BFF since 2nd grade is Irish, and has that characteristic Irish ability to tell a good yarn. The amount of truth in any one story is debatable, but she’ll make you laugh.
But this past week, while visiting with my relatives in Nebraska, I discovered that the ability to spin a delightful story isn’t limited to the Irish. The Polish apparently have the knack as well.
From my cousin Bill: My dad’s birthday fell on the same day as my Aunt Cork and Uncle Jeep’s anniversary. Furthermore, the next day was Cork’s birthday. They often celebrated all events together. One year, when Bill was a small boy, the birthday/anniversary fell on a Saturday. At the end of that evening, which involved some memorable celebrating (likely including a fair number of beers and martinis), my dad got the notion to bake Cork a birthday cake for the next day. But not just any birthday cake. He gathered up all of the remnants of their celebration – bottle caps, dirty napkins, cigarette butts, leftover food, you get the picture — took them to the bakery where he added them to the cake batter he prepared. He baked the cake (which he later confessed smelled – not shockingly – absolutely nasty as it baked). He then iced the cake and decorated it prettily.
The next day he delivered the cake to Cork. Bill said he remembers being so excited to cut into that beautiful and delicious-looking cake, and still recalls his disappointment at the birthday surprise.
From my cousin John: My parents had a cabin at a lake in Columbus. One Sunday, they were entertaining some of our family at the cabin. The men were sitting in chairs by the lake, watching the beautiful boats go by and drinking beer. (You will notice that beer is a recurring theme in these stories) Suddenly my dad said, “Would you like to go out in my boat?” Very eagerly, the men said, YES!” John said Dad led them to the smallest fishing boat imaginable. They all got in, held their breath as the boat sank into the water, and my dad start the engine. “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” John said the engine sounded its high-pitch squeal as they set out, getting bounced around by the beautiful big boats that roared past. My dad couldn’t have been prouder.
From my cousin Marilyn: One year at the annual family picnic, Marilyn, newly engaged, walked her fiancé up to our Uncle Tommy, who was probably 60-something at the time. Proudly, Marilyn said, “Tommy, I’d like you to meet my fiancé, Roger.” A few seconds passed as Tommy looked at Marilyn, then looked at Roger, then looked back again at Marilyn. “Well, who the hell are you?” he asked, not bothering to be politically correct.
Then there’s the story that is part of our family lore. The brick-carrying contests at the annual Micek family picnic.
Let me just tell you that the Micek picnics were legendary. When we would tell our friends that we were attending this annual family function, they were likely to express their condolences that we had to spend our Sunday that way. What? On the contrary, it was something we all looked forward to every year. They food was unbelieveable. So many funny people and so many funny stories. And then, of course, there was the annual brick carrying contest.
The contest began as soon as the beer drinking commenced. The goal was to see who could carry around a brick the longest. This was not always a simple task, particularly after the beer had been flowing for a while. I’m not sure who holds the title of Brick Carrying King, but I’m sure my dad was in the running.
All of this is to say that it is stories like this that tie a family together. For all of our collective faults, our family could laugh at ourselves, and continues to do so. It was fun to hear about my mom and dad when they were the same age as our kids are now, and some of their antics. There is a lot of love being shared in these stories.
I hope our kids have the same kinds of stories when they look back.