18 November 2011

"Nothing Ever Happens to Me"

Last week, I went with my 7th grade daughter on a class field trip to the zoo.  Whenever I chaperone, my kids and their friends bombard me with questions, prompting story after story of my adventures when I was young(er).  This time was no different, and as we rode the bus to the zoo, my stories began.

Because we were going to visit the animals, naturally, I told stories about my various animal adventures.  And because the girls had just finished a debate over whether or not we would visit the reptile house, I pulled out my favorite snake stories.

I told about my junior high school science teacher, who had 2 giant boa constrictors that he would allow to slither through the hallways during class times, when the halls were empty.

I told about the time when I was working at the college print shop, and a snake reared up and hissed and struck at me when I tried to take a stack of papers out to the dumpster.  (It didn't bite me, didn't really even come that close before I ran away screaming, but this marked the beginning of my snake phobia.)

I told about the time, when my daughter was about two years old, that I took her to the zoo.  She wanted to pet the boa constrictor when the zoo keeper brought it out.  Being the amazing, wonderful, terrific mother that I am, and not wanting to pass my phobias on to the younger generation, I swallowed my terror, forced a few deep, steadying breaths into my lungs, and stood in line with her.  I even pet the snake with her, to show her little hands how to do it gently.  I didn't pass out from the fear, and my daughter still remembers it as one of the coolest experiences of her early years and proof positive that her mother loves her.  (Definitely worth it!)

At my daughter's prompting, I also told the girls about how my mother, back when she was a fearless tomboy, used to catch ribbon snakes and wind them around her neck and wrists as jewelry.  She would also catch tarantulas and carry them around on her shoulders.  And because she was such a thoughtful little girl, she never failed to find my grandmother and offer, "You can pet him, mommy.  He's so soft!"  Grandma never did pet a tarantula, but she must have been so glad to have the opportunity so often. :)

When I finished my tales, one of my daughter's best friends spoke up.  "You're so lucky! Why does everything happen to you?"

I asked what she meant, and she explained, "You always have so many cool stories to tell.  Why does the creepy, scary and cool stuff always happen to you? I've NEVER had anything interesting happen to me."

Before I could answer her, we arrived at the zoo, and in the chaos of finding our way into the zoo, along with about 200 other seventh-grade students, along with dozens of teachers and chaperones, our conversation was forgotten.  I wonder what I would have said, if I'd had the chance to answer then and there.  Probably something as mind-boggling as "I don't know."

Since then, I've pondered the question. 

Why do so many interesting things happen to me?  Do I possess some rare and wondrous quality that draws the universe's interesting vibes my way?  Probably not.  Am I exceptionally adventurous, going out of my way to find the cool and creepy elements in any given situation?  Not particularly.

But I'm a story teller.  I watch.  I pay attention.  I write.

Over the years, I've learned to pull the cool, creepy and interesting tidbits out of an otherwise mundane day, and weave them into a fun, true-life story, tailored to the interests of my audience.  And I'm not afraid to make myself look ridiculous in the retelling.

Everyone has fascinating stories to tell.  The trick is learning to watch for those moments. 

My daughter's friend (the one who thinks nothing interesting has ever happened to her) could tell about the time when she and her friends practiced "planking" on all of the play structures in the children's area of the zoo during their seventh-grade field trip. 

She could tell about how they bought several large baskets full of french fries from the zoo's food vendor at lunch time, and shared them with their friends.  She could talk about how they kept going back for more and more french fries, everyone gorging on fried potatoes until they all declared that they never wanted to see another one as long as they lived.

She could tell the story of how her group was late getting back to the bus at the end of the day (and almost caused the entire seventh grade to get back to school too late to catch the buses home), because they were waiting for one member of the group to make a purchase at the gift shop.  She could tell about running across the parking lot from the zoo to the bus, with nearly 200 kids and dozens of teachers and chaperones all yelling at them to "hurry up or we'll be late getting back to school!"

And that's just one day!

So what about you?  Think about your last 24 hours.  What amazing stories could you tell?

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