The Storytelling Epiphany

The only blue ribbon I ever won was at a UIL competition in the first grade for Storytelling. (I relay these credentials to you simply because I can.) However, it wasn't until junior high that I learned the true value of the art of storytelling.

Laura C.--my best friend in the world at the time--had the gift of making people laugh, but not in a Robin Williams sort of way. Laura was much lower key than that. Part of her repertoire was what we came to call the "Celeste stories" which we would make her tell over and over....

In Laura's science class, the desks were in rows. She sat in front, Celeste sat behind her, and the cutest guy in school--Jay Dill--sat behind Celeste. Laura had a huge crush on Jay, and Celeste--being Celeste--decided to take advantage of that one day. As they were listening to the teacher, Celeste tapped Laura on the shoulder. Laura always mimicked Celeste's giddy face. She handed Laura a folded up note and said, "Here. This is from Jay!" Laura mimed opening the note.

Laura was excited and nervous. She unfolded the note, and in big letters it said, "Will you go with me? Check yes. Check no." So Laura checked a big yes, folded the note up and handed it back to Celeste--who wadded it up and shoved it in her pocket since she was the one who wrote the note in the first place.

Laura didn't hear another word the teacher said that day, because she was so excited about what just happened. When the bell rang, Celeste asked Laura what was in the note. "I'm going with Jay Dill," Laura said. (Having absolutely no idea that Celeste already knows that.) "C'mon," Celeste said, "Let's go tell all our friends." So, they did. Then Laura saw a girl walk by and slap Jay on the back and tell him how cool it is that they were going out together. Laura always mimed Jay's WHAT?? face, then Celeste falling on the floor in laughter, as she suddenly understands what happened.... (Luckily all worked out in the end and Jay and Laura had a brief middle school romance.)

Laura had multiple stories about Celeste, and it hit me in high school--when we asking her to tell them for the 100th time--that there was a reason they were significant.

As an adult, my whole day job is about the power of story. There is something about the retelling of events that provides both context and connection. We loved the Celeste stories, because we had all had friends just like her.

But it was Laura--with her humorous narratives--who gave us the power to laugh at them.

6 comments

Jay said...

Cathy...

Jay Dill here... a friend of my was doing research and googled some of our buddies and this came up...what a blast from the past. i do remember that incident. i have seen Celeste a few times over the years but have not seen Laura since middle school. I don't even know where she lives. I still live in Fort Worth in the Overton Park neighborhood. thanks for posting this, it was a good ego boost even if it happened 30 years ago

Cathy H said...

Okay, I can barely stop laughing here. You were always just the "cutest guy in school" from the story so I didn't really think about it when I used your real name in the post.

Laura lives with her husband on a ranch in a small town outside of Waco. She's an amazing artist and is pursuing that full time at the moment.

We still see each other at least once a year. She may kill me when she reads this...

StacyCB said...

I laughed so hard I cried when I read this story. As the younger of Laura's two siblings I know all too well the Celeste stories. Cathy and Jay, you both made my day I have current ammunition with which to humiliate my sister at the next family get together.

Laura said...

Jason Dillson Pickleson! I think Troy Toumey gave you that name. I might as well type out Celeste Cummings' full name in case someone googles her. She was so much fun when we were growing up, and if it was at my expense it somehow made it funnier (in retrospect, of course). Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, Cathy. And Jay, I still remember the moment you "really" asked me to go with you. My desk was next to your locker and when you went to it, you turned around and popped the question. You were wearing a western belt with your name on the back of it. Ah the good ol' days of fifth grade.

will said...

will pope here. all of this is pervasive in my mind still, knowing Jay and Celeste and Laura and literally a community of hundreds who could relate to this as if it were yesterday. it's fat stock show time in fort worth, and I'm in montana...but I'm a storyteller too, and have written about Wall's Western Wear and Rabbit Fur Coats, the 'flip' hair fashions of the times which are not fashionable after all, 'going with' people..(several of these 'notes' survive with my two sisters Mary and Phoebe I believe...gloria vanderbuilt jeans...band class, where victor flores' eye popped out of socket one day...all of it very fresh in my memory

good to read this, I hope somebody finds celeste...

Celeste Cummings said...

Wow - seeing this blog site blows my mind. I had no idea about the Celeste stories! Laura, Jay, Will, Mary, Phoebe and Troy are all names from my past...friends from what seems like a life time ago. I live in Dallas and still have family in Fort Worth. Feel free to drop me a line at ckcummings65@tx.rr.com.

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