Monday, August 07, 2017

Let me tell you a story

This month I've been attending a storytelling workshop here at the office. It's taught by members of Chicago's Second City troop.

Here's the story I'm telling/reading presenting at tomorrow's workshop (if I can get away from my desk). The prompt was, "Tell a true story about one of these things: your earliest memory, feeling lost, or being transformed." 

"Feeling lost" was the easiest for me, and I was surprised by how vivid this memory was.


When we’re little, we’re like corks on the water. Where we go depends on where the currents, or the grown-ups, take us. So I don’t know how or why I ended up at This Grandma’s house for a sleepover. I only know that my mother presented the idea to me as though it was going to tremendous fun.

I knew it wouldn’t. 

Spending time with This Grandma wasn’t as much fun as being with my Other Grandma. While This Grandma promised to teach me how to polish her silver some day, my Other Grandma laughed at my jokes and let me read to her. This Grandma didn’t get my jokes and told me she preferred it when I read silently.

This Grandma was all about noise. She didn’t like anything loud. She hated “disruption.” 

So when I woke up in the middle of the night and had to pee, I was conflicted. I was unfamiliar with my surroundings and unsure how to find the bathroom in the dark. I was also reluctant to call out for help or turn on the lights. The house was dark and completely still, just the way This Grandma liked it. I decided it was best to keep it that way.

I got out of bed and walked carefully through the bedroom. A bit of gray light from a street lamp showed through the window shade. I was tempted to roll it up to let more light in, but that roll-up shade could make a sudden and startling “snap” noise, and that would not be good – not in This Grandma’s house in the middle of the night.

Now I was in the hall. It was long and really dark. I felt along the walls until I reached the door and knob that would let me into the bathroom. I stepped in and felt cool tile, instead of carpet, under my feet and was certain I was close to the toilet and the relief that would come from finally being able to pee. 

Only I could not find the toilet! Somehow, I was hopelessly lost in the pitch-black bathroom. I reached out and touched the smooth sink and the bumpy wicker clothes hamper. But where had the toilet gone?

I started to panic. It had to be here somewhere. I had to pee. 

Reaching up and around me in the dark, I felt the towels on their rack. Was I moving in the right direction toward the toilet? I could no longer remember how the room looked with the lights on. Suddenly I was scared. I was lost in the bathroom.

I took a step forward and felt something on my face. I didn’t like how it felt or smelled so I quickly turned away but it followed me. I tried to push it away but I fell down and it fell with me. Together we made noise and I started to cry.

The bathroom light came on and I heard This Grandma’s voice. 

“She’s wrapped in the shower curtain,” she called to This Grandpa. Then she came over and unwrapped me. 

“I’m sorry,” I cried, stepping up and out of the shower curtain. “I really have to pee.”

“Did you wet your pants?” she asked, pulling me toward the toilet, which now I could now clearly see was right where it belonged. I wasn’t afraid of the dark anymore. I was still a little afraid of This Grandma.

I shook my head, pulled down my pants and sat down. She leaned against the door, waiting for me. I looked up into her face. She didn’t seem mad, or even disturbed. She was all squinty and barely awake.

When I was done, she put a hand on each of my shoulders and steered me out of the bathroom. I started to remind her that I should wash my hands, but thought better of it. 

Filled with light from the bathroom, the hallway looked much shorter than it did in the dark.

Wordlessly she put me back in to bed and left the room. My mother or my Other Grandma would have said something reassuring, but This Grandma just shuffled out of the room and back up the hall. 

I noticed she left the bedroom door open and the bathroom light on. That made me happy.

And I remembered that even though I had been lost and scared, I didn’t wet my pants.  That made me happy, too. I fell asleep feeling almost brave.