Storytelling: Making moments into beautiful memories

I was cleaning out a closet last weekend — yeah, that’s right, I know how to party it up on the weekends.

Anyway, as I lugged out a three-foot tall colonial dollhouse that was purchased, assembled and decorated by daughter No. 2, I not only found her stuffed, orange “giraffey” that had lodged itself into a great “hide-and-seek” spot for the past three years, but a myriad of treasures that jogged a mommy’s memories. All the good ones.

Dr. Seuss’ wisdom came to mind: “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

When I stopped by my mom and dad’s this week, they were in a storytelling mode.

Sometimes when great stories are being told I grab a pen and notepad … but sometimes I throw the papyrus to the wayside and live in the moment. I listened. I learned. And I loved them more.

Here are some snippets, but there’s one other thing you should know. The television wasn’t on, but when it is, my 86-year-old father plays a new game he created for himself. When a commercial comes on, he jumps up, hurries to the 5-foot tall, William McNabe and Company upright piano and plays a song or two while the commercial is playing.

We were talking about board games and playing cards when they mentioned how Chris (youngest son) brought grandsons Isaac and Drew over and how much fun they had watching them play the vintage 1969 Cadaco BAS-KET Real Basketball in miniature — where you flip the ping-pong ball into the basket. When I told him Isaac had intentionally “let me win” the last time we played battleship, Dad recalled his first game of battleship.

“I was in high school and a bunch of us kids went to Mona Carter’s house and we played battleship — it was a pen and paper game back then.” (The next day I googled and found out that before Milton Bradley released it as a plastic board game in 1967, Battleship was known worldwide as a pencil and paper game which dates from World War I. Various companies published it as a pad-and-pencil game in the 1930s.)

Then Dad jumped up to the upright he bought for $45 in the early ’60s and pounded out the 1930s’ foot-tapping Phil Harris song called “Goofus”:

“I was born on a farm out in loway

A flaming youth

Who was bound that he’d fly away

I packed my grip

And I grabbed my saxophone

Can’t read notes but I play anything by ear

I made up tunes on the sounds that I used to hear

I’d start to play, folks used to say

Sounds a little goofus to me…..”

Later Dad played “Down in Columbus Georgia.”

I heard stories about when Dad was about 5 years old, getting on the Shuckster’s small bus-type vehicle to look at all the kitchen-type gadgets and other wares that were being sold house to house.

Then there was the time when Grandma and Grandpa Hommel lived in the upper rooms of a farmhouse that had no electricity — they only had three children of the 11 that would come. “My (little) brother Don and I put a big plastic comb on top of the light” — Dad grimaced and shook his head as he continued — “I can still smell that burnt comb smell.”

Then Dad made his own commercial break to play ‘You get a line, I get a pole” also known as the “Crawdad Song.”

And as mom and I sang along with full smiles like we were trying to impress the audience of “The Voice,” I was thinking that Dr. Seuss probably knew that sometimes you DO know the exact value of a moment — while it simultaneously becomes a memory.

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to