My Own Stories

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

My little boy stops me in the middle of a story I am reading.

"I don't want this story; I want your story," he says.

"My story?" I ask.

"About when you were a little boy."

Alexander Cassatt and His Son Robert Kelso Cassatt by Mary Cassatt
Alexander Cassatt and His Son Robert Kelso Cassatt by Mary Cassatt
I pause, trying to figure out where this is coming from.

"You were once a little boy, weren't you?"

"Yes, I was a little boy a long time ago."

"Well, what happened?" he demands.

"Give me a moment. Let me think." I say, struggling to peel away the layers of time that have grown over those childhood memories. Where was I at his age? What was I doing? What did I think about?

I remember a steel bucket so large I couldn't get my hands all the way around. And I remember this big tank of water deeper than I was tall. For some reason, I was determined to fill that bucket and dipped it into the tank. As the water poured inside, the pail grew heavier. Standing on the tips of my toes, I held on tightly with both hands but the pail pulled harder and harder. I felt my feet leave the ground and the lip of the water tank slipping down my chest.

Just as I was about to topple into the tank, two strong arms lifted me and my bucket up in the air. Safely on the ground, I look up at my tall, weathered grandfather. He gave me no scolding and no shame, just a slight smile. He knew I'd learned my lesson.

"That's a good story. Tell me another one."
We lived on a small farm with a menagerie of animals. We had ducks and chickens and horses and even a pair of squirrel monkeys for a time. One winter, as I remember, it was a rabbit that I was most fond of, and when he turned up missing from his pen I was in tears. The neighbor dogs were sure to kill him, if they hadn't already.
My father and a hired hand went out searching for that rabbit and caught sight of gray fur bounding for one of the outbuildings. Like two Labradors, they ran from one side of the building to the other, shouting and clapping their hands. While my father slithered into the crawl space after the rabbit, the help stood guard with a blanket to toss onto the fugitive.

That was about when I found my rabbit in my room, where I had stolen him away the afternoon before, determined that he and I should sleep together. By morning, I had forgotten he was there. And as I held him in my arms, stroking his gray fur, I watched the two men outside and wondered what they had caught.

My boy is quiet now, his breathing soft and steady. I was going to tell him about the time at school when the girls captured me, tied me to a basketball pole with their jump ropes, and kissed me. Or the time I was lost in the woods. Or how my best friend and I played cowboys and Indians.

He's asleep and I am still a little boy. It's been so long since I've visited these memories, all but forgotten I'm afraid. Were it not for this child, I might never have found them again.
Sleeping Boy (Portrait of Avtiranov) by Nikifor Stepanovich Krilov
Sleeping Boy (Portrait of Avtiranov)
by Nikifor Stepanovich Krilov

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