Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What a Day Yesterday Was

Not the original Elizabeth Stribling Bell, but a proud one, nonetheless.

And then you said, “But Daddy, I want to play with Cousin Scout.”

Never mind the fact that “Cousin Scout” was a dog.  When you are three, your four-legged cousins are often your favorites. 

My father loves to retell that story: the story of “Cousin Scout”.  It dates back to 1976.  Most of my father’s favorite stories date back even further and they all center around the same theme: Family.  He was party to some of the stories, and some were told to him by his parents and grandparents.  Other stories were shared with him by his aunts and uncles, and great aunts and uncles; and some he read about in history books.  My father’s retellings usually start off the same way:

“Boo-boo, did I ever tell you about the time…”

You can see in his eyes and hear in his voice how much he is enjoying the opportunity to reminisce aloud about whatever has just popped into his still very vital, 71 year-old mind.  And the story never ends at the end of the story.  He typically ties it up with his own little bow in the form of a message: his message, especially when he’s talking to his kids.  Maybe he thinks we didn’t know his perspective already; maybe he thinks we somehow bear reminding; or maybe he thinks we need convincing.  Whatever his reasoning is, he uses his stories, all of these very specific moments from our collective lifetime together and the lifetimes of our family members who came before us, to illustrate something for us about us.    

As the Cousin Scout story goes, my family had spent the day at Scout’s farm in Markham, Virginia, where Scout lived with his owners.  Not incidentally, Scout’s owners were also my grandmother’s first cousins: Cousins Henry and Grace who were about age 60 at the time.  Memory doesn’t serve me so well but I’m told that we did regular farm stuff that day.  We sat mystified in the car on Cousin Henry's long driveway waiting for cows to pass, we drove the tractor around the apple orchard, and we fed the craw fish down in the creek.  All of it was a real treat for a little girl growing up in suburban Chicago, especially when you throw in a Border Collie named Scout. 

When it came time for us to leave for our dinner at Cousins Alex and Mary Blake’s down the road, I wasn’t ready to go.  I knew Cousin Scout hadn’t made the guest list.

“There you were; you must have been not quite four years old, looking up at me telling me ‘Daddy, I don’t want to go with you.  I want to stay here and play with Cousin Scout’.” 

My father’s impersonation of my pre-school voice is as whiny as he can muster.

“So you just left me there?”  I ask.  As I’ve asked before at this moment in my father’s retelling of this particular story. 

“Sure.  Why the hell not?  Cousin Henry got a kick out of you wanting to hang around and play with the dog.  And you wanted to stay!”  He bellows.  My father is a bellower.

“And Boo-boo, that just goes to show you what a pain in the ass you have always been.  Always independent.  You were always going to do or at least try to do just what you wanted to do.  Just like your Great Grandmother Stribling…”  He sort of trails off but only for a moment.

“Did I ever tell you about the time a traffic officer tried to write her a citation in the middle of Webster Groves?” 

So I’d like to dedicate this one to my father the story teller.  Also a pain in the ass.  But a loving pain in the ass.  

And to the Greens for continuously opening their doors to our family over the years.

And to Cousin Scout.  For obvious reasons.

Cousin Alex passed away just this past May.  What a tale to tell:

And I love this song: AlanJackson

And at this point, I'm surprised I don't have my monogram in "neck tat" form.

Perhaps something subtle, like this.