where stories begin

Above the archway leading to my daughter’s country kitchen is a long wooden plaque that says “Home — Where you story begins.”
The story of my grandson’s 6th birthday party is not an unusual one — tables lined up with white paper tablecloths on which the dozen young guests crayon while waiting for the cake and ice cream, members of the family and extended family bustling around each other and gathering around for traditional candle blow-out.
The theme of my grandson’s party was a little unusual: Massachusetts State Trooper hats and badges and ticket books young guests created themselves. Even the cake was decorated with an image of the official State Trooper car.
What will be an oft-told family story, I’m sure, is my grandson’s over-the-top exuberance as he acknowledged each gift, even the ones that weren’t something related to being a cop — and especially the full police outfit that I gave him and that he wore for the rest of the day. For some uninherited reason, he’s enamored of authority-figure costumes — police, fire fighers, FBI agents/spies, doctors, soldiers…. Go figure.
On the drive out to Massachusetts last Thursday, I listened to some beautifully written stories by American combat soldiers on NPR’s Selected Shorts program (see Program 42 here). These were not stories about the inhumanity of war. Rather they were stories that reflected the sweet humanity and humor of the soldiers forced to fight the war, stories that reinforced the identities of these soldiers apart from the war.
While most of the ones read on the air were true, the most poignant to me was actually a work of fiction. It was about a female soldier taking her young son to the airport, where he would fly, alone, to his grandparents, while she went off to war.
Perhaps, some day, there will be no need for war stories.

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