When my dad was a kid growing up in Lawrence, Kansas, he and his friends were really into animals, wild and otherwise. Somehow, he found a baby alligator and decided to keep it as a pet. He figured an alligator needed to be near water, so he put it in the laundry tub in the basement of his house. Oh, and he somehow forgot to tell his mother that he had an alligator, or where he was keeping it.
When my grandmother went down into the dark basement to do the laundry, she got a bit of a surprise. And she screamed too, first about the alligator, and then at my dad, just so he wouldn't feel left out. That was the end of my dad's having an alligator as a pet, though not the end of his love of animals.
I told that story last weekend in my storytelling workshop as an example of a very short story. But there is more to that story. My dad had a scar on his thumb that he said had come from the alligator. I liked to examine that scar very closely when I was a kid and imagined what it would be like to have an alligator as a pet, and how cool it would be to have one bite you. (That's just how boys think.)
This story is also a great slice of daily life in my dad and grandmother's lives in the '20s in Kansas. Without my dad having told me this story, I never would have known it, as it is not written down anywhere else.
In preparing for the workshop, I began wondering how much of the stories and history of our families do we learn from reading. Very little, I think. And that makes it all the more important for us to share the stories of our lives and families with our kids. My kids know that story about their grandfather and their great grandmother, because I've passed it on to them.
Got a crazy pet story to tell? I would love to hear it. Please email me at
. And tell your kids too, they will love it.