Sometimes we remember our stories; sometimes they are remembered for us.
For example, my brother remembers the story of when we were about six and four and a neighbor busted us for dancing on the roof of our four-story building completely naked at 5:30 a.m.
The way my brother tells the story, our logic was this:
- Mum is sleeping and we don’t want to wake her to ask if we can go the roof.
- Mum wouldn’t want us to get our pajamas dirty.
- Therefore, we should just go on the roof naked without waking her.
The way Mum tells the story is with a sense of pride and wonderment for having such kids’ll-be-kids kids who managed to stay alive despite having no rational fears of heights or getting into trouble.
And the way the neighbor tells the story might be different, too. She obviously felt distressed enough to get dressed and come across the street at a god-awful hour to ring our bell and chastise my mother for sleeping while her kids were dangerously careening upon the roof and, she added, for raising hippy kids.
Why do the differing perspectives matter? Our stories influence who we become, because they are biased by each story that came before. Had my mother’s reaction been different, had we been micro-managed after dancing naked on the roof, our story would be different, and importantly, so too would every story have been different afterwards.
If this story happened in another family, the story might be told as a cautionary tale – never let your children out of your sight/lock all the doors and windows at night.
But in my family, it’s told with love and amusement, and it is that attitude that shaped us, that attitude that permeates our story. Certainly we were told to never go on the roof again, but we were still allowed to explore and wander and come back with tales of adventure.
Mum often sums her story with a wave of her hand and this statement: “No harm done. After all, they were just dancing.” And I love this declaration because it kind of says as long you're dancing, you'll be all right.