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One Good Story Demands Another

From the movies to your own tales

Ah, we’ve already used up one of the irreplaceable months this no-longer-quite-so-new year gives us.
    Which brings us to Groundhog Day, that frivolous-seeming cross-quarter day whose significance in the forward march of time hides behind a furry hibernating mammal.
    We’re great fans of the frivolous. In the words of Jeff Thompson, “It is what it is; might as well have fun along the way!” (I’ll remind you who he is in a few paragraphs.)
    So we’ve made it a Bay Weekly tradition to celebrate Groundhog Day by retreating to the burrow. True, the thermometer is climbing into the 60s as I write. But it is February, and any groundhog knows that winter will be with us for many weeks before we can believe in spring.
    What to do but burrow in and watch movies?
    Each year, Bay Weekly cinephiles help all us groundhogs figure out what to watch till spring brings us back outdoors.
    Chief Bay Weekly cinephile Diana Beechener chose the oft-told story as this year’s theme. Maybe, she suggests, some stories are so good that they demand regular retelling. Alternately, remakes could suggest a lack of imagination on the part of the big studios.
    Both are probably true.
    But the retold story is the idea that interests me.
    Long ago as a serious student of literature, I was so intrigued by the idea that I wrote papers about it. A story that demands telling and retelling is powerful. Hearing it can bring you under its spell. The good story is contagious.
    We’ll see whether any of these movies infect us with ideas and images that behave like viruses and play with our cellular codes.
    I’m such a believer in the power of the story that I think it’s possible that a good story is like a living creature; it ­doesn’t want to end. It perpetuates itself by begetting other stories. This week’s mailbag delighted me with living proof, in the form of readers’ responses to Bay Weekly Stories.
    Jeff Thompson of paragraph two is the restoration carpenter who Margaret Tearman introduced in her January 19 story If Walls Could Talk, about the reconstruction of outbuildings at Linden, home of the Calvert Historical Society.
    “My wife Cathy laughed, perhaps, a bit too long, at the line Thompson — an energetic, boyish 44-year-old,” he wrote Tearman.
    “I admit that I am still a big kid, always excited to discover or often times rediscover something new.
    “Case in point: Cathy took me to the aquatic center in Prince Frederick. I have not been on a diving board in approximately 25 years. I suddenly realized that the only other people shuffling anxiously in the waiting line were all under 14.”
    Reader Barbara Wright of Edgewater had her own begotten story to tell:
    “I sure could relate to your editorial Scratching the Itch of Curiosity,” she wrote of my January 19 editorial.
    Bedbugs were a theme in my story, which began after my father joined the Navy in World War II.
    Here’s Barbara Wright’s shared story:
    My parents married in 1936, and I was born in 1937 in Salem, Ohio. They were Depression-era very young adults, and we lived with my paternal grandmother and her two younger sons in rentals. My parents were in the downstairs quarters and the other part of the family was upstairs. I do not know why, but they moved four times. When I was five years old, my parents bought a small house of their own.
    In one of the rentals, my mother would put me to bed and I would cry. She would get me and rock me. My dad said, This has to stop. You put her to bed and then go for a walk and I will let her cry herself to sleep. (He was actually a very kind, lovable man.)
    When my mother returned and checked on me, she found I was covered with bedbug bites. We moved ASAP, and that was the last time I had to cry myself to sleep.
    My dad was drafted into the Navy during World War II when they had just bought their own home for $1,500. The monthly payment was $15. By this time, I was in first grade and my mother had to go to work at the A&P a block away from my school to pay the house payment.
    Your story did relate to my memories, and I thank you for bringing back those thoughts to me. It was a trying time but a very happy time when my dad returned safely from his tour of duty in Guam in the medical corps.
    It’s true, isn’t it? One good story demands another.