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Rebecca Faye Smith Galli: What stories do we give our children?

May. 26, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The little fellow was drenched as he fought the rain storm. He could hardly see the sidewalk as he trudged along, but he could smell his banana sandwich's aroma making its way through the soggy wet brown bag his mom had packed for his lunch.

He was in the second grade. School was dismissed about 11 a.m. The teacher said a major storm was coming. It would begin as heavy rain, then sleet. She told her class to hurry home, as fast as they could. That was back in the days of small neighborhood schools when all the children walked to school.

The rain was coming in torrents, and sleet was fighting for equal time. The child bent forward against the elements. Then he heard a car horn. He dared to look up and there he saw the most beautiful sight in the world -- his grandfather opening the car door and motioning for him to get in.

"I thought a boy might need a ride in this weather," the elder gent chuckled as his grandson jumped in, baptizing the front seat with rain water. "Got a banana sandwich in that little bag, don't you? I can smell it," he said. "Nothing smells quite like a soaked banana sandwich."

To this day, when I smell a banana, I remember my father's story about his soaked banana sandwich and that cold and stormy day when his grandfather sensed that his little grandson needed help.

I never knew my father's father, Papa Benfield, he was called. But I knew him well through stories. He was a kind man. A faithful man. A man who every time he saw my father would ask him what he'd learned that day. He must have been a thoughtful man, too.

We never know what memories we create for our children and grandchildren by the simple acts that cost us so little but become rich experiences for them. What stories will I give them to tell and retell to their children? What smells will conjure up feelings of warmth and safety?

"Where are you going?" a friend would ask my mom before we headed out for vacation.

"We're going to make some memories," she'd reply with a twinkle in her eye. Whether at the beach or the mountains or to the park for a picnic, she knew that family time was precious time, an opportunity ripe for memory-making.

My sister, Rachel, has a more direct approach.

"Yes, Mom often said that," she confirmed when I called her to double check my recollection. "In fact, I use it, too," she said. "I told the kids we are taking a family vacation -- a short one, just family -- to make some memories. And to ensure we remember it, I decided we'd go on an air boat excursion."

"Really, Sissy?"

"Yes. Now they don't really want to go on an air boat excursion, but I bet they'll remember it!"

And I'm sure they will. One way or another.

Surely it's a story that will be retold.

This column was co-authored and edited by Rebecca Faye Smith Galli, daughter of the late Dr. R.F. Smith Jr., a longtime columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Her email address is rfsgalli@gmail.com.

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