La La How The Life Goes On

Human Writing Prompt

Posted on: July 6, 2014

“Mama, tell me a story.” Baby Sister says that at least three times a day. I used to love it because it was a great chance to casually introduce themes and topics like her first day with us after her adoption (you ate all the yogurt that Nanjing hotel breakfast buffet had!), school fears (you were nervous but that’s how you met your BFF Jilly Hooper!) or her heart surgery (you were so brave! And the first thing you asked for your first solid meal afterwards was a big plate of peas!).

Aaah. It was all so simple then. Food, folks and fun: the three key building blocks of children’s storytelling. Now, weeks later, I am running out of stories. Interesting ones at least. You and I may not be enraptured by the heroic tale of The Little Girl Who Ate Peas, but damn if that little yarn didn’t buy me three days of respite from story creation. Unfortunately, now that she is an urbane and sophisticated “almost Kindergartener” my little Story Urchin has had it with the daily gruel I’ve been slopping out lo these many days (please sir, may I have some more?). The Three Fs no longer cut it and the pressure is on to deliver something better than “Yay you! Yay peas!”

Thinking back to stories that Bambina ate up, I tried talking about books she used to love at each age, forgetting momentarily that my girls could not be more different if they tried. Bambina could discuss books for hours. “Mama, are you aware that JK Rowling’s inspiration for the name Dursley originated in….” Baby Sister’s reaction to book talk? “Mama, that boring.”

So I tried telling her stories of cool things she did as a baby. But that just pissed her off because I was apparently disrespecting her current, adult individuality. “Why you keep talking about babies? I’m not a baby! Stop telling baby stories!”

I tried many avenues of interest, each a deader end than the last, each found wanting in a variety of different ways. None considered a successful or worthwhile vehicle for satisfactory entertainment. Desperation obviously set in.

Which means of course that I have, as of this writing, told her no fewer than five (5) stories about poop and pee. Yes. Much like the desperate and lesser-light comedian who must resort to saying “fuck” plus something about tits when he senses the 3-drink minimum crowd’s enthusiasm ebbing, I have silenced the better angels of my nature and am now in full scatology mode for survival.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. That time I farted monumentally in 2nd grade to much embarrassment, shock and awe is a proven crowd-pleaser. As is the time I rolled down a hill for fun and consequently got covered in dog shite because, hello, it was 1978 in Scotland. Leash laws and basic “don’t leave animal feces everywhere” sensibilities hadn’t been invented yet. We were totally still littering in ’78. And not wearing seat belts. And eating a brand of jam whose mascot was a ragdoll in blackface. So leaving entire grassy knolls riddled with dog poop bullets was not even on the radar of human concern.

I’ve shared the story of when I was 2 years old and I fell into the toilet. I was so proud to be using the bathroom myself that I failed to note that if I didn’t hold the sides of the toilet seat I was going to go right into the commode. Which I did. To this day I can summon on command the disquieting and inchoate feelings generated by my little toddler butt cheeks submerged in toilet bowl water, legs trapped up in the air, as I screamed for my mum to liberate me from my porcelain prison. I can tell you every detail, how the sunlight shone through the window just so, and the look on my mom’s face as she crested the stairs to see only my legs and head emerging from the bowl, pulling me from the wreckage while repeating, ” I told you to wait for me! I told you to wait for me.” Baby Sister particularly likes that detail, mistaking (or is she?) my mom’s concern for disappointment. Like, not only were you stuck in a toilet which is gross enough without one more detail, you got in trouble to boot. Excellent! She gave that story a 9.5.

So you see my dilemma. If it bleeds it leads, which is no way to go through life, son. So help me out, friends. Tell me a story I can tell her. I promise I’ll change your name. Especially if it involves poop.


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