There are some stories my mom tells over and over. We all have them—those poignant life events that we cling to and become part of our being.
The story most of my family and friends have heard about me is the one where I broke my leg in 8th grade. I always preface it with the fact that I was the tallest person in 6th grade but the last girl to bloom in southern Ohio. After begging my mom for a bra for months, one day she brings home a “bra” and underwear set. The top, which I’m enhancing by calling a bra said “What’s green and dangerous?” and the underwear said “A thundering herd of pickles”—it came with a complete color illustration of pickles running through the desert. I don’t think I ever wore the top, but I know I at least wore the bottoms once.
One snowy evening, I’m sledding in a creek bed with my friend Jenny. On one run, I land and hear a very loud crack. After several dramatic events, I end up in the emergency room. They had to cut off my snow pants and the intern gets to my underwear, cracks up and runs out of the room and brings in two other guys. Yes, of course I have on underwear that says “A thundering herd of pickles.” You think they could have just cut them off and shared them in the break room or something. Horrific to a prepubescent girl, but just a funny story that is one of the mileposts in my life.
My mom tells one about her sister getting hit by a car (apparently in my family they always involve a major medical emergency). What she remembers is going to the Mayo Clinic and visiting the Minnehaha Falls. The climax of the story is her recollection of a pipe that was dripping a few drops of water. My husband is from Minnesota, so we’ve been hearing this story since at least 1994. My son is 14 and swears he has heard the story at least 100 times. Every so often we Google it and show it to her, now it’s a vibrant waterfall.
I wonder if this is part of the dementia or just a personality quirk of my mom’s. Will I be telling the story about my underwear over and over when I’m 80 or will I know that I’ve already told this story, or at least notice the faces of those around me to ask “Have you heard this one before?” Bemused.