"Would you like to hear a story about when Mommy and Aunt Julie were little girls?"
It had been an intense day, and I was desperately trying to get Wenxin to settle down and snuggle with me before bed.
"OK, " he whispered, moving in close.
"Well," I began, "when Mommy was about seven and Aunt Julie was about five, we had a great big baby doll named Fatty Ann. She was huge -- bigger than Aunt Julie. Fatty Ann was not an expensive doll. Her body was made of cloth, and she was filled with stuffing. And her big giant face was plastic.
"One day Aunt Julie and I were playing with Fatty Ann on the carport and we got the idea to punch her in the face and see what happened.
"So we did. . . and it left a big dent in Fatty Ann's big plastic face.
"We thought it was funny, so we did it again. Then, all of the sudden, we both attacked Fatty Ann, punching her over and over and over again. When we finished Fatty Ann's face was full of dents. She looked terrible.
"Aunt Julie and I looked at Fatty Ann, and we both began to cry. We felt so bad for hurting her. And we were afraid we'd be in big trouble when Grammy and Papa found out."
By this time, Wenxin was laughing his head off at the idea of his mom and his aunt beating up their baby doll. He laughed until he could hardly breath. Then an amazing thing happened. He began to yell, "Hey Katherine! Hey Julia! Do you know the story of Fatty Ann?" He wanted to share it with his siblings. So I had to tell it again.
I realized something that night. Wenxin needs to hear my stories. Even though he's been in our family less than a year, he needs to be connected to the stories of his parents and grandparents. Every family has an "oral history" - those funny stories that get repeated over and over again. It's what separates the outsiders from the insiders. That night, Wenxin felt like an insider.
At that point it was really getting late, but everyone begged for one more story. So I told them about a time when I was really little. I'd just learned to go to the bathroom on my own, but on this particular day, I lost my balance and fell into the potty. I frantically began to grab for anything I could use to pull myself out. Unfortunately I caught hold of the handle and flushed the potty by mistake. Now my terror was over the top. . . because I'd seen what happens to things that are sitting in the potty when it gets flushed. . .
"So what finally happened?" Wenxin wanted to know.
"Oh, just in time, Fatty Ann ran in and saved me!" I just couldn't resist.
Paul Klee Drawing
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