My minivan has a spot on the back right fender that's rusted; it's a small spot and if you look closely you can see that the finish was gashed some years ago, exposing the metal and then becoming rusted.
My kids know what caused this small gash in our minivan. They can tell you the story.
Years ago, probably 4 or 5 years back, my boys and I had decided to go to Gigi's café in south Minneapolis for a bite to eat. The parking is on the street. At the eastern end of that block there is a house.
On that particular day a man was mowing that house's lawn. I parked there next to the side of the front yard. As I opened my door to get out and go around to the right side of the vehicle to get my toddlers out, I heard the loud ping of something smacking my car hard. When I went to investigate I saw the small gash and realized that the mower…now near that side of the car…had thrown a small rock at my car.
I was irritated by the mark on my car, but I kept thinking that if it had been a few minutes later that rock very easily could have hit my little boys in the face or eye or back of the head or arm and done some real damage.
We don't go to Gigi's as often as we did when the boys were little, but we stopped there yesterday for an after school treat and I showed them exactly where I had been parked. They were very interested to see this exact location and to go through the story again.
It's funny that the boys know this story so well. It's meaningless in the scheme of things. It won't change anything or teach them anything, but they will remember it and know it as a story from their childhood and retell it to their kids, perhaps as a cautionary tale or a matter-of-fact story from something long ago.
I know I have stories like this from my childhood that float around my head. Why do I remember these specific instances or items or places or stories or tastes or smells? What do they mean? …. Maybe nothing at all like this story about how our minivan got a little rusty gash.
My kids love stories like this though. They also love stories with more meaning to them. The stories of their births and infancies and firsts and how our pets reacted to the new babies coming home and stories from our childhoods and about our siblings or our parents or our grandparents are especially interesting to them.
The stories we tell give them foundation. The stories we tell give them something to relate to. The stories we tell give them stories to tell.
One of my favorite stories growing up was about my mom and how one Christmas season when she was a young girl at home alone after school she had unwrapped and re-wrapped every gift under the tree…not just those with her name on them, but all of them. She was caught when she said something like, "This feels like a red sweater."
I always loved to shake and feel gifts to see if I could figure out what was under the paper…these were the good 'ol days before gift bags. And I was told over and over this story about my mother. And now it's one we tell the boys. And we all laugh about it.
Sometimes the mundane becomes a great story. Perhaps over time they are exaggerated or embellished or maybe not…maybe simple is better for some stories.
These stories give us heritage and shines a light on who we are and who and where we come from. Even those silly, meaningless, completely ordinary stories.
So tell your stories to your kids and spouses. Laugh or cry or roll your eyes and shake your head at your stories. And help your kids tell their stories. All our stories are important. Over and out…