The Stories We Don’t Tell

I have two concerns with every blog post I write: 1) Is this piece narcissistic? Have I focused too much on myself and my personal experience, or have I done enough to share something of overarching value—something that might make a positive difference in someone else’s life? And conversely, 2) have I shared something I shouldn’t have—something sacred?

Life these days can feel like there’s no such thing as oversharing. We’ve become accustomed to 24/7 news cycles (although we usually tune in to the networks and narratives we already agree with). Our infinite wireless connections give us the capability to share, thumbs-up, angry-face, comment on and caption everything and anything, wherever we are, anytime.

There are lots of stories out there, individual as well as global, and they are constantly being told and talked about.

But what about the stories we don’t hear? And the ones we don’t tell?

We don’t have to tell all, do we, friends? And maybe, sometimes we shouldn’t.

The stories that are sacred to me are the ones I experience on a deep, quiet level with my family. Moments that have a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign hanging from the doorknob. Scenes from my life in which I feel joy, or sorrow, or the presence of a higher power—and to narrate that experience would be to besmirch the sacredness of it.

You probably have these experiences too—the ones that make you pause before you click “Post.”

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A few months ago, I wrote a rough draft of a post about moving from Texas to New York. The working title was “10 Signs You’re Not in Texas Anymore,” and included social-culture tidbits like, “Texas is a bit more ‘bling,’ while New York (upstate, at least) loves L.L. Bean.”

I worried that my post might come across as “poking fun at” either place, rather than “just for fun” about both. So I shared the rough draft with family and friends from both regions. Some of the “signs” prompted them to affirm, “Mm-hmm.” Others made them laugh. “Maybe this will go viral,” I said, half-joking.

Then someone noted that it would have to be snarky in order to go viral.

He was right: Snarky rules. It’s right up there with screen names and online personas, soundbite-heavy broadcast journalism, and hashtag-friendly campaigns (from advertising to political…if there’s even much of a difference).

Snarky isn’t my style. So I’ve saved this “10 Signs” story for face-to-face conversations, to limit any potential misunderstandings about two unique places, each amazing and special in their own right.

With all the sharing that does happen, we might turn to overemphasis and emojis galore (or, if we’re writers, clickbait headlines) to attract people to our stories. “Come on, folks—pay attention to me!”

Every now and then, though, it might be helpful to ask ourselves, “Is this a story I should tell the world? Or is it one better saved for face-to-face conversations?”

In the beginning, we told stories to explain the unknown. We didn’t have blog posts or phones or YouTube. All we had were one another, gathered around a fire—together.

If we were gathered together, like that, today—right now—would we speak in extremes? Would we lodge ourselves on opposite sides of the fire, or would we acknowledge the shades of gray that are part of life? Would we talk to one another?

Would we tell our stories, from the heart, about what matters to us? About the experiences that have shaped us? Would we share the moments that we know not to simply lob online?

For many of us, I think the answer would be, “Yes.” Yes, we’d really talk to one another.

We probably would find some common ground, too.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Struggling as Not-a-Morning-Person When You Have Little Kids

It was a weekday, about 7:30 a.m. My husband slung his briefcase over his shoulder and grabbed his keys. “Have a great day, girls,” he said.

“Da!” Anna exclaimed, throwing her little 2-year-old arms around one leg.

“Me too!” yelled Grace, stronghold-ing his other leg.

“I love you guys too,” Stanton said. “Have a great day with Mom.”

Grace pouted. “I wish we could come with you.”

Anna imitated her big sister’s pout. “Da, Da, Da.”

Scenes like these are always an ego boost for me. “Come on, girls,” I said, pouring myself a cup of coffee. “We’re going to have a fun day.”

Stanton escaped out the front door. Our daughters trudged over to me. “So what are we doing today, Mom?” Grace asked, as I sat down.

“Ma, Ma, Ma.” Anna climbed into my lap. She smiled at the bowl of Cheerios I’d poured for myself. “Yum, yum, yum.” Grabbing my spoon, she began shoveling cereal into her mouth.

“Anna…” I sighed. “Can’t Mom eat her breakfast?”

Anna shook her head. I shook my head too, and reached for my coffee.

“What are we doing today, Mom?” Grace repeated.

“Well, you have school…”

“Yay!” Grace said. “I want to pick out my clothes.”

I frowned at her. “Excuse me. Is that how you ask to do something?”

“Please can I pick out my clothes?”

Anna munched on Cheerios.

“We’ll pick them out together,” I told Grace.

Grace exhaled, deeply. “Fine. I want us to do that now…please?”

“I need to drink my coffee first.”

Grace kicked at the floor. “All you do is drink coffee,” she grumbled.

“Excuse me?” Before I could go on, something cold, wet and mushy fell into my lap. I looked down. Anna, meanwhile, looked up. She had tipped over the bowl of Cheerios.

“Anna,” I groaned, getting up.

“Aaahhh,” she said, stepping into the cereal on the floor.

“No!” I said, reaching over to grab her. I deposited her away from the spill. “This happens all…the…time,” I said, wiping at my previously clean pair of pants with a napkin.

“Don’t whine, Mom—solve the problem,” Grace said.

This is something I say to her, but it’s not something I want to hear, uncaffeinated, at 7:35 a.m.

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Fact: I am not a morning person.

Another fact: Most mornings, I struggle as not-a-morning-person with my two little kids.

Mainly, I struggle to be patient.

I struggle to be patient when my toddler spills my bowl of cereal on the floor for the third or fourth or 40th morning a row.

I struggle to be patient when my preschooler accuses me of “only drinking coffee,” when I was up until midnight the night before working on a writing project, folding laundry and filling out her application for spring soccer.

I’m working on becoming a more patient mom, especially in the morning.

Mornings when Stanton is out of town for work can be particularly trying. These are usually the mornings that Grace picks to greet me at 5:45 a.m. with urgent questions like, “Mom, where’s my purple glue stick?” and “For our summer vacation, can we go to the moon?”

I answer—“I don’t know;” “No”—only to be asked the same follow-up question multiple times in a row. Yes, you guessed it: the ever-popular, never-ending “Why?”

“Why, Mom?

“Why?

“Why? Why? WHY?”

Oh. My. Goodness.

On one such husband-out-of-town morning, I set the girls up in Grace’s room with plenty of fun activities—sticker books, “pretend and play” doctor kits, blocks—so that I could take a shower. About a minute after I turned the water on, the girls poked their heads inside the shower curtain, pointed at me and began laughing hysterically.

Let me just tell you, friends: I’m in my 30s. Could be in better shape, stretch marks—you know how it goes. To wake up, begin showering and then see the reasons for those stretch marks point at you and laugh hysterically—there are more rewarding feelings than that, I have to say.

Another morning I was brushing my teeth. I reached behind the bathroom door for my towel—at which point the door suddenly slammed my head against the wall. “Aaahhh!” I cried. What had just happened?

Then I saw Anna looking up at me. She smiled. “Ma!”

“We found you!” Grace shouted from behind her.

“Guys. Guys.” I willed myself not to raise my voice. “Did you see what just happened? My head is killing me!”

“Mom,” Grace hissed. “Remember, you don’t like that word.”

I closed my eyes.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, the girls and I do our best to get Grace to preschool on time. The wild card, though: Anna. Some mornings we’ll be ready to go, with everything we need—my diaper bag, Grace’s backpack, water for the girls and coffee for me—when Anna throws a fit when I try to put her jacket on. Or she takes her pants off. Or wants to wear Grace’s tap shoes.

(What to wear. The majority of my conflicts and time sucks with my daughters revolve around what to wear.)

Eventually, we’ll get out the front door. Get in the car and on our way.

A couple of minutes later…

“Spill! Spill!” Anna.

“Mom! Anna had a spill.” Grace.

I glance back. Anna’s sippy cup of water, marketed as leak-proof, is in fact not. Water soaks her pants.

“Off! Off!” Anna.

“Mom! Anna wants to take her pants off.”

Of course she does.

I reach for my coffee. “As soon as we stop, I’ll change Anna’s clothes.”

“Off! Off!” Anna’s voice is becoming increasingly strident.

“Mom! Anna wants to take her pants off now!”

The clock says 8:26 a.m. I gulp down some coffee. “Let me find a song on the radio, girls.”

“Off! Off! OFF!!!”

I turn on the radio. It’s in the middle of a song we all like. “Keep it here!” Grace yells.

“OFF!” Anna keeps yelling. Maybe by the chorus, she’ll have settled down.

I have some more coffee.

Yes, I struggle as not-a-morning-person. But I’m working on it, one daybreak at a time. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it, right, friends?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Catching Up With My Dad: 5 Moments

This past week, my mom and dad visited with the girls and me for a couple of days. Stanton was out of town for work, and Anna had just turned 2—great timing for a catch-up. They would give me a hand with the girls, and also deliver some belated birthday presents to Anna.

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When my parents arrived, my dad hauled a cooler into the house. The cooler contained a huge amount of food that my mom had prepared for my family and me: stuffed shells, minestrone soup, coconut chicken, zucchini fritters, and lots and lots of cookies. There’s a custom, I think: When you grow up Italian-American, you bring your loved ones homemade cookies.

And in my family, it’s customary that my mom handles the cooking and baking, while my dad hauls the cooler.

Teamwork.

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On Wednesday, I encouraged my dad to come along with me to pick up Grace from preschool. “There’s a McDonald’s drive-thru on the way, so we can stop to get coffee,” I added. Ever a fan of Micky D’s, Dad agreed.

When we got to McDonald’s, I pulled into the drive-thru. “You know, it’s faster to order inside,” my dad said.

“All we’re getting is two coffees,” I replied.

“I’m just saying…”

“By the way,” I interrupted, “do you have any small bills? Because I only have a twenty…”

“Sure, honey,” my dad said, reaching for his wallet. You have to love dads.

I ordered our coffees, Dad paid, and then we pulled up to pick up our order. A lady opened the window and said, “I’m so sorry, we just ran out of coffee. But we’re brewing a new pot.

“It’ll be ready in two minutes…maybe three.”

I sighed. We might be late picking Grace up.

“It’s faster to order inside,” Dad repeated.

I looked over at him. “You know you’re aggravating me.”

Dad smiled. “I know you very well, and yes, I know I’m aggravating you.”

*

The next day, Thursday, the Capital Region saw its first real snowstorm of the season: about 11 inches. Dad did a few rounds of shoveling the sidewalk and driveway. Then I bundled Grace up so that she and her “Pop” could play in the snow for a bit.

My mom and I watched them through the windows (Anna was napping). I smiled as Grace and my dad chased each other through the still-falling snowflakes, tossed snowballs at each other, and shook tufts of snow off the pine trees.

After 15 minutes, they hustled back inside. Grace requested hot chocolate. “Me, too!” my dad said.

“Since when do you drink hot chocolate?” I wondered.

“Hot chocolate would hit the spot right now,” Dad said.

Later that day, he told me he only asked for some because Grace was having it. But I think he really did want hot chocolate that day. (Sorry, McDonald’s drive-thru.)

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That evening, my parents headed back to their hotel. They always stay in hotels because Dad snores loudly and, thus, can be a noisy houseguest. “Thanks for all your help,” I told them.

Later that night, I noticed that my dad had dragged the trash cart out for pickup in the morning. I do this when Stanton’s traveling for work, and I can do this—but Dad’s small, thoughtful gesture touched my heart.

I called him to tell him so.

“You’re welcome, honey,” he said. “We’ll see you in the morning to say goodbye.”

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In the morning, my dad and I dropped Grace off at preschool. On the way back, we chatted about driving in winter-weather conditions, something I’m not practiced at after 11 years in Virginia and Texas.

“If you feel your car slipping on ice, don’t brake hard,” Dad said.

“Take your time; go slow,” he added. “Don’t worry about what the car behind you is doing.”

Good advice in general, right?

Thanks, Dad. P.S. Love you.

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.