Lately, my seven-year-old twins have been asking for us to tell them stories about themselves. “Tell the one about how I danced before I even stood,” Elizabeth says. “Tell the one about when I was a kid and I checked that lady’s pants like they were diapers!” Eli says. They especially love the funny ones.
It reinforces for me the idea that we need stories. It is a basic biological and psychological need and it’s how we make sense of the world and ourselves. It’s how we form out identities. Creation myths. “This is how I became a writer.” “This is how we met and got married.” "This is what our family is all about.” “This is what it means to be an American.”
So, without further ado, here are those stories.
“How Elizabeth Danced Before She Stood”
Elizabeth has always loved things that move. She loved the baby swing and to be rocked, and she is a bit of an adrenalin-adventure type gal. (I fear her teenage years.) She was a little baby and she couldn’t even stand yet. Her Auntie Naomi was holding her standing up on her lap and singing “Boom chucka lucka lucka, boom chucka lucka lucka.” Elizabeth starting bouncing and bouncing. She couldn’t keep her legs straight and support herself, but she could dance!
“How Eli Checked a Woman’s Pants”
I went to daycare to pick up the twins. They were toddlers less than two. They were out in the big room where parents were coming in and picking up their kids. One mom was crouched down reaching for her child, and Eli came up and pulled out the back waistband of her pants. As any parent knows, that’s what you do to check and see if a child’s diaper is dirty. He was very kindly checking her pants for her. She jumped up and went, “Wooo!” and then looked and laughed.
Both the kids find these stories hilarious, and they have me tell them over and over. They must have reached some stage in their development where they’re becoming more conscious of themselves in relation to others and forming their identities more firmly.
But it makes me think of our writer creation stories. “I’ve been writing my whole life.” “I was destined to be a writer because my grandfather was a writer.” “I suffered abuse as a child so of course I’m a writer.” These creation myths are important to us, but because they become so pat and everything begins to seem like destiny, they can be disconcerting to others who hear them. By that I mean, another possibly younger writer hearing a creation myth might think, “That didn’t happen to me. Maybe I’m not destined to be a writer.” But the thing is, they’re stories like everything else, put together to give us meaning and justification and purpose.
Maybe the best thing to do is to immediately go and put together a creation myth for yourself, if you haven’t already. Especially in this, the beginning of a new year.