Sunday, May 7, 2023
Since restarting this project I have been trying to be better about storytelling and less about complaining. I suppose my success is up to you to decide, dear reader.
But tonight, it’s in the context of thinking about stories that I thought about the bedtime stories my grandparents used to tell me. As far as I can tell, I was the only one who got bedtime stories. I asked Kevin and he said they didn’t tell him stories.
And if they didn’t tell stories to Kevin, it’s unlikely they told any to anyone else, especially as we moved shortly after Brian was born so the younger boys were denied the pure joy of weekends at grandma’s.
Going to sleep at grandma’s was a big deal. It was a full-on trip, even though all you did was walk around the corner and up the block.
I would pack my bags, and my parents would walk me over, and I would spend the weekend. Many cheddar goldfish were consumed. Many stories were told.
I’m fortunate to come from a storytelling family, but I tend to think that is a generational thing. Maybe an Italian thing. Maybe a generational Italian thing. Stories were flung around every day, with great gesticulation at tremendous decibel. Stories about people, stories about the war, stories about the family, stories about the neighborhood.
Uncles told stories and aunts told uncles they had clear heads.
The stories my grandparents told me were made up. Made up, on the fly, always the same but always different.
And grandma’s stories and grandpa’s stories were polar opposites. I don’t think they planned this. I don’t even know where they came up with these things. I wish I could go back and ask them, how – why – did you ever think this stuff up? And did you coordinate, or was it just good luck?
Grandma told me stories about Geraldine. Geraldine was a good little girl. I think she had a brother (surprise). She always did her school work and got good grades, and she was polite and listened to her parents.
Because she was such a good girl, Geraldine went on a lot of picnics. Her parents always took her to a beautiful park with a lot of grass and some big trees for shade, and they’d spread out a blanket and have the most amazing food and pastries.
They played a lot of games on these picnics and always had fun until it was time to go home, and nobody complained about going home because everyone was already tired and ready to go to bed.
Geraldine’s parents promised her that if she was a good girl, they would go on a picnic again the next week. And since Geraldine was always good, and it never rained, they always went on another picnic.
I loved Geraldine. My grandmother told me these stories while petting my head and my eyes would close and close and close and I’d try hard to stay awake to hear about the pastries and the fun, but by the time Geraldine got in the car to go home, I was channeling her sleepiness and already dreaming about next week’s picnic.
Grandpa, on the other hand, told me stories about Creamcheese. Creamcheese was not a bad girl, but she got into an awful lot of trouble. She was wild and raucous and rambunctious and she never meant to break anything, but things broke anyway and sometimes she drove everyone to distraction.
Creamcheese did not go on picnics because she would have only spilled the soda and mussed up the blanket and then the ants would have found out about it and everyone would go home cranky and sunburned.
Creamcheese had a lot of animal friends and they often did running, howling, jumping things together. I don’t know if Creamcheese went to school, or if school simply didn’t exist, because no mention was ever made of it. Only fun things, and lots of games, and lots of laughing, and lots of being loud and unruly and sometimes getting in trouble for it but always working it out and everyone being happy and having fun again.
I loved Creamcheese. I used to chime in as my grandfather told me about her antics and add a few ideas of my own. They usually involved more jumping. He told me these stories while petting my head, too, but I was usually too excited to fall asleep.
I’m pretty sure we had a few crossover episodes. It’s possible that Geraldine and Creamcheese were either friends or sisters, and one would help the other be good and the other would add a little spice to the occasion.
I wish they had told these stories to someone else because I would love to remember what I forgot. These are the things that keep me awake at night, the forgotten stories, the lost details. But these stories are my secret treasures, and whether I remember them or make up little bits and pieces to fill in the gaps, the memory of them still holds all the love they were told with.
Photo: me and my grandparents, pick a birthday. My brother Brian scanned it recently so it would pop up on my parents’ digital photo frame. Perhaps someone penciled in the date on the back of the original and someone will let me know.