Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tell Me a Story

There is a quote that says "storytelling rescued me most of my life" from Writer Armistead Maupin.

I felt that way this week as I laid a cold compress to my son's forehead. In my freaky mommy brain his horrible headache was worming it's way to certainly becoming brain cancer, a cerebral bleed or most likely a concussion. It was a simple headache, but somehow I had let myself travel down the mommy "fear luge" to arrive at the worst case scenario. I knew that when my son asks me to tell him a story, instead of reading one -- it means he truly doesn't feel well.

So as I pressed his forehead and waited for the Motrin to kick in, he asked for me to tell him a story. In an effort to distract myself from the crazy brain, I tried remembering the funniest stories of my childhood. I know how he loves to hear about the days when I was a kid. Somehow, my ordinary growing up days never grow old to him -- seeing every story filled with magic and charm.

"Do you want to hear the story about the school bus we transformed into a camper?" I asked gleefully (my favorite story).

"Mom, you have told me that one a thousand times," he said.

"How about the time I broke my leg playing darts in the church?" I offered.

"Heard it," he said in a tired voice. This wasn't working.

"Okay, how about the old family cabin in Kalkaska, Michigan story where we had to use an outhouse?"

"Wow! Tell me that one!" he said.

With relief, I told him the story about our family of five kids and two adults staying in a one room cabin deep in the wilderness of Michigan. I lavished and embellished my story about snowy winters where we hiked back in waist high snow, hauling food, clothing and whatever entertainment we needed. His favorite part was how there was only an outhouse until we got ultra modern and brought a portable potty about the size of a suitcase inside the house.

He was fascinated with the fact that there was no running water in this place, no TV and how we could all survive in that snowy little shack. But he was most fascinated with how the portable potty worked. He rolled with laughter at the idea of it and in his almost 8 year old brain, I'm sure he was imagining his mom as a 12 year-old peeing into a suitcase.

What struck me as funny was how riveting all this stuff was to him. All the things that I grew up thinking were so ridiculously rustic and horrible inconveniences made for great stories to him. He peppered me with question after question:

"How does a water pump work?" he asked.
"How does a portable potty flush?" he continued.
"Did you ever use the outhouse and was it creepy?"

He was full of questions and I could tell that all was well again with him. He begged me to tell him about the suitcase potty one more time.

"I think that is enough for tonight," I said happily knowing his headache was better and indeed only a headache.

With relief I could think back to times I had told him the stories. When he was hooked to IVs in the hospital, trying to overcome dehydration. When he lay in bed too sick to watch TV or even hold his head up. When he was wracked with a too high fever that would not budge with medicine, I told him the stories. The stories became my way of coping and distracting myself from the fear that lay before me. I can always count on the stories to remind me of brighter times and happier moments. 

Those were the kind of stories that Armistead quotes -- rescuing both of us once again.