Monday, April 4, 2011


In my previous post I mentioned that we recently attended my Aunt Beth’s funeral. As we walked to our car to drive back to Manhattan after that long and emotional day, Stewart told me that he found it touching and sweet that my family had gathered at my Uncle Jack’s house after the funeral to spontaneously tell stories about my Aunt Beth’ life. Stewart was glad that Max would grow up in a family that bonded over the enjoyment of sharing stories together about the more colorful moments in everybody’s lives. I was very glad to hear that sentiment from Stewart, as I too love our family’s tradition of storytelling.

That love originates from my mother’s father, Noah Finkelstein. Although he passed away when I was only eleven years old, I have fond memories of him telling me stories while I sat on his lap. Some of these stories were make-believe, but the ones that resonate with me to this day were stories mostly true (though all good stories involve a little exaggeration!) about my family, including many about his brothers.

Any big family occasion is the natural setting for people to sit around and tell stories. This doesn’t happen at every event, but you can usually count on at least some old family classics being told when an event brings somebody new to the party. When that happens, the unsuspecting newcomer is bound to hear about the time that, as a teenager, my brother David threw-up all over my sister Rebecca’s date on a ferris wheel at the town fair; or, about the time when my sister Rebecca as a kid so frustrated my mom in the car that my mom grabbed her ice-cream cone and tried to throw it out the car window . . . not realizing that the window was closed!; or the time that my sister Esther, at age 8, cracked-up the family’s newly purchased used car by putting it in reverse so that it rolled right out of the driveway (and then insisting that she didn’t do it!)

Since I am the youngest of my siblings, many of these stories were before time. I think I have an extra appreciation for them because these stories give me a glimpse into what my family was like before I was around, and when my parents were still together. Now that I’ve heard many of them a million times, what I really enjoy about them is seeing the reactions on the faces of the people who are hearing the stories for the first time. For example, I get such a kick out of how much my nieces and nephews love hearing these stories and how they beg for more. I can’t wait until Max is old enough to enjoy them so that I can cherish his reaction when he hears these stories for the first time. I have no doubt that, like all of his cousins, Max will beg us to repeat those he has already heard and beg us to tell him new ones.

Of course, he’s going to be particularly interested in stories about his Abba, and just like there are favorite stories about my siblings, there are some family favorites about me too. My personal favorite story involving me is actually the earliest one that I remember. When I was three years old I decided that I wanted to go on a trip by myself. So I did what any logical three year old would do – I packed my little suitcase full of underwear . . . just underwear! Family members differ on who was supposed to be watching me at the time, but I somehow managed to leave the house for my big trip with my suitcase of underwear without anybody seeing me.

As the story goes, once outside I heard live music, which was coming from the West Orange High School marching band a few blocks away, who were working through a pre-game rehearsal. I followed the music all the way to the high school, where I spotted a big yellow school bus. I was delighted to find the perfect means of transportation for my big trip, and proceeded to climb aboard! But unfortunately, that’s as far as my adventure went. My sister’s friend, who was part of the marching band, recognized me and said, “Oh my god, that’s Jacob Drill!” Next thing I knew, I was hauled into the principal’s office, a phone call was made, and my dad came to pick me up. I knew he was very angry because when I saw him, his bald head was as red as the Gremlin that he was driving at the time!

red gremlin

 With tales like this to hear, I’m sure Max will acquire the same passion for family storytelling as the rest of us. I look forward to having some fun ones starring Max to share too, and in a way this blog is an early effort to do just that!


  1. This reminds me of my own family! We had our perennial favorites too - like uncle Manny's umpteenth hernia, some unmentionable April Fools Day jokes, and my dad's original "Cynthia Stories". I'm sure that Max will love hearing about your "Big Trip"! Great entry.

  2. HC:

    Thanks, your family stories sound pretty interesting.