Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Wedding stories

I'm going to a wedding this weekend. I've known the bride since she was 6 days old--and I was in college. I asked her mother for suggestions on wedding presents. The e-mail response came a few days later: Kristen would like me to tell a story at the reception.

Wedding stories. The first time I was asked to tell a story at a wedding was back in the mid '90s. A friend of my sister asked if I could tell the story of how she and her sweetie met, and their lives together since. Over ice cream, the couple told me their story. I listened, wrote everything down, listened, asked questions, listened and put it all aside. After a while, I was able to find a thread that ran through all their adventures. I found a form for the story.

I enjoyed telling their own story at the wedding, but it was a little chancy--I seem to have a problem with facts. I got partway through the story and forgot the next bit. I chose to strike a pensive pose, looking down at the ground. Inside I was cursing. What came next?! I couldn't make it up! Then I remembered to breathe and the next piece of their story came back to me.

For this upcoming wedding, it won't be so tricky, I don't think. I'll tell a story I invented when I was about 13 about the kids in this family--I added Kristen's name to the story after she was born. Once the kids made me a little book of "The peanut butter story," nicely illustrated.

And what else? This isn't a full performance, so I'll probably just tell one more, maybe two. I've been looking for the right one. Should I tell an old chestnut, like "Sir Gawain and the loathly lady"? Should I tell a folk tale that's funny and ends well, like the Irish story "The lazy young woman"? Or should I jump right in and tell a new one? It can take a long time to find the right story, and a long time to make it my own, but sometimes, just sometimes, I can find one, love it, learn it and have it work well. It may become a part of the full repertoire as it sinks into my body and mind, or it may be a flash in the pan. Some stories take years, literally, to learn (and sometimes understanding comes much later).

I'll let you know what I tell, but probably not until after the fact.

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