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Story, Worth Telling


Tell your stories to your children. Write your childhood memories. These two instructions have hit home for me the last few days. I think I have not done either one as well as I should have. I did not mean to not tell my stories. Honestly, I feel a little silly about it. And concerned.

Maybe my own life story does not mean as much to me as my dad’s life story means to him. Is that why I have not told my stories? I can tell you a lot of dad’s stories easily … I’ve heard them often. They were important to him … important enough to tell. Now that I think of it, I’d bet that our children can possibly tell my dad’s stories, better than they can tell mine. And I’m standing here thinking, wait, shove over, I have a few stories to tell, too, right? Everyone’s stories are important, why don’t we know that? Another thing I notice is that it seems there are more of dad’s stories than of mine to tell. How can that be? Well, actually, it can’t be true. What is true is that I have not owned my story well enough to pass it on and that’s not okay.

Elv’s mother was a great story keeper and teller. She had so many stories that began with, “when Aunt Pearl and I were girls”. She kept a lot of photographs, too, and she remembered names and places and faces. She told her stories so well, that I think sometimes I know her stories better than I know my own. And that jolts me a little.

She had a trick of attaching certain stories to her possessions. She would say to the granddaughter perusing her china cabinet, “Pick something out, I’ll tell you the story.” No child in her right mind is going to turn that down.

So this story is for my practice. In storytelling.

The wind whooshed the sail above our heads pushing our little white sloop hither and thither, seemingly out of control. Brad worked the tiller and sheets in vain attempts to bring her around so that we could leave the dock. We were anxious to sail into that lovely breeze blowing on our faces.

Puzzled he took stock again, “Here mom, take the tiller!” Then dropping to his knees, unmindful for once of his skin showing under his t-shirt, he began to work on the lever to lower the centerboard. With his head in the cuddy, frantically and ineffectively pulling and prying, we were headed for a wrecking and I was a poor crew member, not knowing how to help. The tiller seemed useless to my inexperienced hand and the sail flapped loudly. It was no use. The shore kept coming closer, too fast. I dropped the tiller and slid into the water only up to my knees by now and tried to keep her from slamming into the shoreline. I needn’t have worried, the tiller was jammed completely over to one side, the rudder dragging meaningfully on the rocks and eventually played anchor. It was sickening. By this time Brad was in the water with me worried that we had ruined something important like the rudder. We both hung on to her to keep her from hitting the rocks and took stock again.

I kept wondering what had we done wrong? Sunday when we were out it went perfectly. We had an ideal sailing breeze that day. The sky was blue, the water amazing, and the sunshine bedazzling our little white sloop and sails. Sailing is different than canoeing or boating. It’s quiet. It’s almost surreal on a blue sky Sunday afternoon sailing out across the lake.

So what went wrong? I kept asking him.

“I forgot the center board, Mom.” He was wide eyed with chagrin.

I love canoeing and boating so when Brad bought an old sailboat to repair and sail, I was excited. It’s water craft and lake time. Life is perfect on the lake. Troubles are far away and unreal there.

Bill, the nice man who sold the sailboat to him, showed Brad how to get it all ready to sail. He and Brad had taken a short sail around his dock on Round Lake so that Brad could get the feel of sailing. They spent more than one session together and Brad was feeling closer to ready to take Elv and I out.

It takes an hour to get it rigged and ready to launch, at least. There are ropes and pins and knots and sails and umpteen procedures to carefully work through and it has to be done right. I get very impatient and want to help and I’m completely stupid about how it goes. It is good for both Brad and I on that level too. For once he is my teacher and I follow his directions. I feel proud because he isn’t afraid to show me how. He believes I can do it and that’s saying a lot for his nineteen years against my fifty plus. Sailing is fun for kids and their old parents if they want to.

So we had had our good sailing on Sunday afternoon. That was then.

Here we were now, clouds billowing overhead, the wind puffing and chuffing our little boat against our bodies while we strove to keep it off the rocks. Finally we decided to walk her over to a nearby dock to try again to put the centerboard down properly. Sailing was out for the day anyway so we slowed down, counted to ten so to speak, and started pulling her over to the dock.

A man came running out of his house on the shore, “Are you guys okay?”

“Yeah, we are, can we just use your dock long enough to get her reset?” Brad asked throwing the painter toward him. He caught it and helped pull her in.

“I want to see of I can get the center board to set, it seems jammed or something.” Brad explained.

Reaching the dock, Brad climbed back into the boat and wiggled the centerboard handle again. No luck with that. So we decided the only thing to do was to tie up that flapping sail and walk her back up the shore to the landing. We thanked the man and got back into the water.

Wading along the shore up to our waists hanging on to the now seemingly floundered boat probably looked pretty sad. It felt sad to us. We loaded her up, undid, tied up, and tucked in all the paraphernalia again. So much for our glorious evening sail!

But like all good stories should end, we decided between ourselves that we’d learned a lot. We made one important, seemingly minor, mistake but it ruined our whole evening. As it turned out, Brad was hugely comforted to find out that neither the centerboard nor the rudder were damaged in the least. Just our pride, I guess. And we chose to take it as a cheap, easy lesson in sailing.


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