Recently, J and I had lunch with another couple, who moved to Boston this summer. They also have roots in the South, so a discussion of holiday travel plans led to a discussion of road trips, and we began trading stories of our respective treks to Boston.
They recounted their drive from Memphis, how they managed it in a single, grueling 27-hour stretch. They laughed as they remembered navigating their moving truck down narrow Boston streets, with frequent “No Trucks” signs and no place to turn around, no choice but to go forward.
We laughed in sympathy, and shared highlights from our own four-day odyssey from Texas to Boston, two years ago.
The long first day, the end of which found us still in Texas (albeit on the border). The moving truck trouble that kept us in Nashville an extra twelve hours, to our hostess’ delight and our mixed joy and chagrin. The desperate phone call to friends in southern Virginia, who let us stay at their house even though they were out of town, when it became clear we would never reach Maryland on the third day. (I will never forget that act of kindness.) The long fourth day (and the rain all through Pennsylvania); the fruitless search for a gas station bathroom in Connecticut. The sheer relief of pulling into a driveway west of Boston, well after dark, and Abi running down the sidewalk to meet me, her arms spread wide in welcome.
“These are the stories you tell,” I commented, as I listened to J recount parts of our story and jumped in to add context and details. Our move to Boston is already one of the turning points of our marriage, a jagged, exciting new chapter, and we have already told and retold the tale of how, exactly, we got here. Our friends will do it too: five and ten and thirty years down the line, they will remember the fresh, anxious adrenaline rush of driving that rental truck through Boston.
Some of the details of our moving saga will fade with time; others will make their way into family legend. Our children will know this story, the way I know the stories my dad tells and retells around the dinner table. There are anecdotes from his childhood on a Missouri farm, from when he worked on his uncle’s land in the summers, from his newlywed years with my mom. Stories from when my sister and I were little, many of which became the impetus for family jokes. (My husband and my brother-in-law have heard a lot of explanations over the years, as we four Noahs keep translating our family vernacular for them.)
Just like my dad, I reach for the same stories over and over again, to explain a trait or share a memory or make friends laugh. I often find myself saying to friends, “You’ve probably heard this story before.” But I keep telling them, the same anecdotes and jokes, because those stories make up the fabric of my life, my marriage, my family’s life together.
What stories do you tell over and over again?