Connie told a story about Daddy telling a story.
“ ‘The Jap plane came flying in over Diamond Head,’ the cigarette trailing smoke as he made a diving motion, mimicking the Zeroes with his hand, “their guns blazing. I dove for cover . . .’ He stopped in mid-sentence when the back door opened announcing Mom’s return from Dick’s Supermarket. ‘Go help your Mother, ‘ he mumbled, leaning back into the red velvet chair and lighting another Tareyton. Dad never came back to that story,” Connie laughed.
Neither of the other two of us kids ever heard him tell that one. We knew from previous stories, that he didn’t arrive at Pearl Harbor until after the attack on December 7th. There were countless other stories about his time in Hawaii: meeting Admiral Nimitz, avocadoes two for a nickel, the daily rain storms, watching Mauna Loa erupt, V-J day. All confirmed by the 16mm films he took, even if the footage of the volcano was store-bought, not made by him as he let us believe. My father told stories and never let truth get in the way of a good story. He knew instinctively it is often as important what the listener brings to the story as what the storyteller puts into the tale. The stories we tell ourselves and each other define who we are as individuals as well as who we are as a society.
The anthropologist, Emile Durkheim, says, “representative rites and collective recreations are so close to one another that men pass from one sort to another without any break in continuity.” My father told stories from his life: Austin gamblers in the early twenties giving him and his fellow Austin High football players cash tips after they won a game; voting illegally three times in a Chicago city election in the thirties, building an air field in Alaska right after the attack on Pearl Harbor; and countless others inspired by some seemingly small occurrence in our childhood lives. My father’s stories formed a nimbus of meaning that was somehow more significant than the world I knew on Flamingo Drive in Victoria, Texas. He created a mythos through his tales that has shaped my life. “It is true,” says Paul Rodin, “every primitive community, are clothed in magical and ritualistic dress.” The material from which this cloth is cut comes from the stories we relate to one another talking over breakfast, sitting around the teacher’s lounge, working with our students in the classroom. In my class, my students, with my encouragement, make connections between their lives and the books they read, a text-to-self connection in the jargon of reading teachers. Daphne Key writes, “As teachers and students, we have the opportunity each day to create stories of hope set in a respectful and loving world. As teachers we have the power in our always-being-imagined stories to identify meaningful markers for ourselves and our students; it is our obligation to ensure their reflection.” Often as my students make the connection, or as they attempt to explain a statement about a character they tell a story about their father or mother, or aunt, sister, or themselves. More often than not one student’s story inspires several other students to eagerly relate one of their own. From these stories, we all tell and share, come the mythology through which we live. Ernst Cassier wrote, “There is mythology now as there was in the time of Homer, we do not perceive it, because we ourselves live in the very shadow of it.”

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