Stories, coming and going

Anyone who has ever spent time with a two year old knows that they love to hear stories over and over again. Give them a Disney film and a start button on the DVD player, and they will gladly watch that film two hundred times or more. They will stare at the screen in rapt attention, singing along with all the songs, oblivious to the world around them. And they will enjoy that film just as much the two hundredth time as they did the first twenty times.

At some point we outgrow this. Oh, sure, occasionally we will see a film more than once, maybe even three times, but our days of watching the same film — or hearing the same story — dozens of times or more eventually fade out and leave us, as we gradually emerge from Neverland and take our place in the world of school, and then dating, and then adulthood, somewhere along the way losing that magical ability to derive unbounded pleasure from endless repetition of a single story.

But eventually a funny thing happens. As people approach later life, they begin to tell the same stories multiple times. A tale first heard perhaps fifty years ago seems new again, as though it had first been told only yesterday. The story queues up, fresh and eager, like a new memory.

Many of us have an older grandmother or grandfather — or perhaps an elderly great aunt or great uncle — who revel in the tales they tell, even the tenth or fiftieth or two hundredth time they’ve told the same story to the same listeners.

Perhaps it’s all part of the same great circle. When we are vey young we have a voracious appetite for hearing the same story, and when we are very old we have a voracious appetite for telling them.

Maybe this part of life that is in the middle, this long period of adolescence leading to adulthood, is merely a diversion, a temporary loss of innocence, a time when our grown-up mind can only give or take our cherished stories in fits and starts, no more than one time to a customer.

There are many pleasures to be had by those of us in the vast middle. But the joy of a story endlessly repeated remains the provenance of only the very young and the very old.

2 Responses to “Stories, coming and going”

  1. Troy says:

    don’t all of our stories change over time? :)

    As we grow older, the cache of retellable stories grows slowly, but, the really really good stories get told over and over.. I feel sorry for the significant others and partners that have to hear the repitition of the constant re-runs. Hopefully, the stories get better with time.

    One other thing that is common between the very young and the very old… the repetition of the phrase “change my diaper and put on cartoons!”

  2. admin says:

    The last part of your comment is not funny, it’s just cruel. Please don’t say such hateful things here. This blog is not a forum for that level of ugliness. -Ken

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