The Storytellers

My very favourite Uncle as a child, was my Uncle Buck. I’m sure there were many in our family that could never quite understand why I spent so much time at his house. Why would an old man in his seventies hold such an attraction for a young girl?

Like a drop-in centre for the homeless, his recliner armchairs became my after school solace. His limited mobility made him the perfect captive audience. I didn’t notice that he was still in his pyjamas at three in the afternoon. I didn’t care how clean the floor was. The necessities were covered. There was always chocolate in the fridge, a cup of tea that could be drank from a saucer, and an ear that would listen to story after story of my wildly exciting who said what in the playground melodramas.

Uncle Buck lived two houses away from my own, but the moment I stepped into his yard I felt like I’d entered another world. I was an Avenger, a superwoman, an explorer. What might appear to an adult as messy and overrun, is a breeding ground for creativity to a child. Any school project could be solved with a visit to Uncle Buck’s wood heap at the back of his house. Preparation for show and tell at school was easily fixed with a quick scavenge through a few old discarded boxes in the sunroom. I would sit and listen as he told me the story of each quirky item that had its special place, the stuffed alligator, the biscuit tin in the shape of a head. Only old people can truly talk about waiting a lifetime for something to happen, for they have waited and watched time pass by. I believed every story, including the magic carpet ride to Japan, and his super power glasses that he’d never let me try.

After my Aunty Ruby had died, Uncle Buck would let me disappear into my own world of make-beleive while I tried on all of her long gloves and sparkly accessories. I would sit at his feet covered in brooches, hat pins and sparkly necklaces while he told me stories of where Aunty Ruby had worn them. It always sounded so exotic, when the reality was merely a country dance or a party. He spoke of her in the same way I would later hear my Grandmother speak of my Grandfather after his death. The invisible pedestal is placed, no ill can be spoken, fights are forgotten, disagreements never happened. You watch as eyes glisten while you hear the retelling of the first meeting, the day they were married.

“She was the most beautiful woman in Renmark.”

He was back in a time of dances, diamontes and pencil skirts. There was no mention of Parkinsons, shakes, senile tantrums or mad escapes that would have my mother searching the town for an elderly woman in her nightdress.

Perhaps it takes a lifetime to choose what you want to remember. The disagreements, the petty arguments, or the raging fight you had that day in the Woolworths supermarket carpark about what you said at Dave’s party on Saturday night, are all forgotten; the real point is that at the end of it all, when it was all said and done, you chose to stay. You were still there together, because you could never be apart.

I grew up surrounded by relatives who lived in houses that were not always perfect, but they were always positive. Work was done, money was banked, holidays were planned, and children were well looked after but encouraged to discover. Stories were told, recycled and remembered, each one helping in the building of the next invisible pedestal.

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  1. How wonderful! Every child needs an Uncle Buck!

  2. It’s clear to me where your story telling ability comes from.
    What a lovely childhood you had.

  3. My grandfather was a wonderful story teller. I’d always get him to retell me the stories over and over again. They were usually about his own youth and his siblings. Sometimes he’d change a small detail for me to correct with a “But grandad you said…” How I miss him.

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