My dad recently sent me a box of papers that he had found. Several of them were papers from college—old tests and lab reports. Some of them were older, my immunization record from my pediatrician and the record of the registration of my birth. Others were older still: several mimeographed pages of family ancestry on my mother’s side, so old that they did not include the last addition to my generation—me. They did include notes in my maternal grandmother’s school-teacher-perfect handwriting and even a poem that she wrote—the original with edits that she made. I was aware of the poem, but had only seen the edited version. I had never before seen the original.
The papers he sent also included something I never knew about: a story, a simple allegory that my Dad wrote when he was in the third grade. It was a short little story, written in pencil on a now-yellowed piece of lined paper. Each letter and word carefully formed. It was dated in the upper right with the year, 1939. To me, it is a treasure. It is a glimpse into my dad’s childhood, and it is something that he created with his very own hand, and I will always cherish it.
I know my dad is a pretty good story teller, as was his dad. I have often enjoyed listening to Dad and other “hangar fliers” sitting around the local airport on a rainy day, telling their stories, and I have heard him tell many stories about Grandpa’s bicycle shop or his adventures growing up in Tampa.
I knew my dad used to draw pretty amazing sketches and cartoons, and is quite a talented artist, and I knew that he was in school at a time when these kinds of gifts were often overlooked. I also knew that he spent a significant part of his educational experience figuring out ways to NOT go to school.
What I didn’t know is that, evidenced by this story he wrote in third grade, he is a fairly gifted writer as well. The story is simple, about a dog and a bird, and carries with it a lesson. Perhaps it is a story assigned in response to reading Aesop’s Fables, who knows.
But here it is:
One day a bird was flying. The bird saw a worm.
A dog was hiding behind a tree; the dog waited for the bird.
The bird landed.
Then the dog jumped out. The bird flew up; the dog barked and barked, and the bird flew away with the worm and never flew down [again] without looking.
The moral of the story seemed simple enough to me: look before you leap, or rather look before you dive for the big, juicy worm.
I read the story to my daughter, and I asked her what she thought of Grandpa’s story.
“I think the dog went off and chased a cat, so the bird got away.”
That was an interpretation I had not considered.
Ah, the treasures you discover when you start sorting through the boxes in the attic.
© 2013 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.