Not Me

My sister Karen mentioned that her son likes the Uncle Jeff stories that she’s been telling him.

I tried to imagine which Uncle Jeff stories might appeal to a five year old. “Uncle Jeff stories? Are these stories that I tell and that you’re repeating or are they stories about me?”

“Well,” she hesitated, “his favorite is about the time you had an ice cream cone; and you ate the cone first and got the ice cream all over everything.”

“What? I remember that. That was Justin!”

“Maybe he did it too. But it’s your story.”

I distinctly remember looking back at a toddler-sized Justin as we pulled away from the Dairy Queen parking lot. I watched as he struggled to keep his ice cream contained after he’d eaten the bottom off of the cone.

My family’s folklore is filled with stories from this cute-kid genre. But the identity of the cute-kid gets switched around depending on who’s telling it.

An example:

My parents sometimes fixed grilled-cheese sandwiches for dinner. They preferred having mustard on their grilled-cheese. Most of the kids didn’t like mustard though, so they’d fix a bunch with mustard and a bunch without.

One time, Mary was getting her dinner. She couldn’t distinguish the mustard sandwiches from the others, so she asked for help, “Which ones have mustard?”

My mom answered, “The one’s on the white plate.”

And, as she selected her sandwich from the other plate, Mary announced, “Then these must be the ones with peanut butter!”

I remember it like it was yesterday. Mary always said the darnedest things.

My parents and my older brother and sisters remember it too – only they’d have you believe that I was the one looking for the peanut butter and cheese sandwich.

I guess it’s possible, considering we were growing up in the same environment – eating the same meals, that Mary and I may have made the same Family Circus-worthy quip at different times.

I wish I had more dirt on Karen, then I’d have some stories to tell my nephews. But since I’ve just established that we were all pretty much interchangeable, I could just drop her into some Mary stories or Rachel stories.

No. Wait. I’ve got it. I’ll memorize a bunch of Family Circus panels and describe those to my nephews.

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