Monday, January 12, 2009

Storytelling

One of the delights which I've been missing out on since leaving for this mobilization/deployment has been reading bedtime stories to the young daughters of LTC and Mrs. LTC K. A couple of years ago now, LTC K took me under his wing and began to mentor me in what it means to be a Staff Officer in the United States Army. As the Executive Officer for the Reserve-Component Brigade he worked for at the time, LTC K worked full-time on a post not far my HOR (home of record). Though he's in the Reserve and I'm in the Guard (and thus he has no real military connection to me, other than wearing a uniform that has "U S Army" on it), he went out of his way to square me away. For his kindness and generosity, I'm deeply indebted.

Not long after we met, LTC K invited me to his home for dinner. Mrs. LTC K manages to dazzle me with her culinary creativity every time I have supper at their house. Whether I show up more or less unannounced, or with planning aforethought, the food is simple, richly flavored, and beautifully presented. How she manages to do all that, given her busy daily routine remains a mystery to me. About the time I mobilized for this deployment, LTC K moved his family to another part of the country, which saddened me but gladdened LTC and Mrs. LTC K and their children. They really didn't like living where they were.

That first night I went to their home, I met their daughters, who for some reason took a shine to me. All three girls get prettier every time I see them.

The youngest (Daughter Three (D3)) was five years old at the time, and the cutest little pixie imaginable. I guess I *am* getting pretty old, because I'm not sure anymore whether she or I suggested that I read a story, but soon she was nestled next to me as I was reading a children's story to her. I figure that the point of such a venture is to use as many strange voices, emphases (pronounced em-PHA-ses, of course), gestures, extraneous noises, and editorial comments as possible when reading to an audience. D3 seemed positively enraptured as she laughed and giggled and gasped as the story progressed.

Soon Daughter Two (D2) stopped setting the table (much to the chagrin of her mother, as it turned out) and was on the other side of me, following along eagerly. She was nine years old, I think (I just *know* I'm going to get in trouble with the ages of these young women....). Almost immediately thereafter, Daughter One (D1), then twelve years old, joined us on the couch. I can't remember what the story was, at this point (there have been *so* many since), but I do remember being surprised that D1 would be interested.

At story's end, I had to promise to read another story *after* dinner, and then the girls went and finished setting the table.

Before the next time I had supper with LTC K and his family, a condition of my being fed was at least one story, preferably two.

That next time -- and ever since -- not only were the three girls present, LTC K and Mrs. LTC K made sure *they* snuggled into the other sofa for the reading.

Over the past two years, I've lost track of how many books we've read together, but I made sure for Christmas 2007 to get each of the girls a book that figured prominently in my childhood reading: Cheerful by Palmer Brown for D3; Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt for D2; and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle for D1. I was able to find first editions, first printings of the first two books, and a first edition, non-first printing of the latter. I'm hoping the girls will come to treasure the act of reading -- and the books themselves -- as much as I do.

(This year, I didn't get anyone anything for Christmas.)

One of the sadnesses I experienced during Chaplain Basic Training in summer 2007 (other than the fire ants, the dead-of-night (seemingly) PT, the sauna-like weather, and NCOs barking at me because I was such a klutz) was that I went three months without reading any books to the LTC K family. Before this weekend, it'd been six months since we were able to read together, which is much too long!

It was great seeing them again after such a long hiatus! LTC K himself came to the airport to collect me when I arrived Thursday evening, and then we took public transportation to their new house (well, new to me, anyway). D3 met us at the door, and blew right past her Dad to tackle me. She's now seven years old, but still pixie-like. However, she practically knocked me down, and left her Dad grumping that he'd been ignored.

That night, after supper, we read Cheerful again, all of us together. I was sandwiched between D3 and D2, with D1 on the couch with us. LTC K and Mrs. LTC K snuggled on the other couch.

It was easy to forget, for a short time, about Iraq.

I even got to spend the night.

Blessings and peace to one and all,



Fr. Tim, SJ

1 comment:

LTC K said...

Father Tim:

It was an absolute delight hosting you for your visit last week. We felt honored that you would choose to visit us during your brief respite from deployment. Everyone read your blog post last night and we are delighted that you had such a good time. You are always welcome in our home.

While it may not be obvious to you, it is obvious to me why my daughters took such a shine to you. You treated each of them as individuals, worthy of notice, full of talent, and gave them the full measure of human dignity – irrespective of their ages (and I will note that you were correct in their ages across the board – further evidence of how you treated them). This behavior is far too rare in today’s world, all the more reason for them to cherish it from you.

You will delighted to know that all three love to read, and I have it on good authority that they do in fact treasure the books and are delighted by the stories you gave them for Christmas. In fact, it is my understanding they have been reading each other’s books… :-) I have been “tasked” upon occasion to read "Cheerful" and will confess that I am unable to do so with your flair and style, much to my daughter’s disappointment.

As to the concern you expressed to Mrs. LTC K that D3 may have replaced you with her affections for CPT J, D3’s response when asked was, “I like CPT J and CPT S, but I LOVE CH Meier!” You have nothing to fear, you are still first in her heart.

Finally, while it is kind of you express your gratitude for the “mentoring” that I have provided you, the truth is that you have given me far more wise counsel than the other way around.

Safe travels and God’s speed until we meet again.

Sincerely,

LTC K & Family

 
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