“Detective in the Family,” Friend, July 1991, 44
Emily sat on the top of the park bleachers, her arms folded across her thin chest. “Dumb old cousins,” she muttered to herself. “Who cares about them, anyway?” She blinked her eyes and tried to ignore the burning in her throat that meant she was about to cry. She stood up and trudged down the bleachers and across the grass to where her mom was talking to Aunt Betty.
“Mom,” Emily whined, flopping down on the picnic table bench. “I don’t like this family reunion. It’s boring, and none of the other kids will let me play with them.”
“Of course they will,” said Aunt Betty in amazement.
“No they won’t,” replied Emily glumly. “They won’t even talk to me.”
“Then talk to someone else,” suggested Mom.
“Like who? Everyone else here is old. They aren’t any fun.”
“Well, thanks a lot,” said Aunt Betty.
“Oh,” Emily admitted, “you’re different. You tell neat stories.” She put her head in her hands.
“Betty,” Mom said, “do you remember some of the stories that Dad used to tell us when we were little?”
Aunt Betty smiled. “Of course I remember. Hey! That’s what you can do, Emily,” she said. “I bet if you asked the right people, you’d hear some great old stories.”
“Oh, no one would tell me anything,” Emily grumped, but she was starting to smile a tiny bit.
“True,” said Mom, “they might not. But I bet there are a lot of good stories hidden out there just waiting to be told.”
Suddenly, Emily sat up very straight. “Yeah—I could be like a detective searching for lost treasure,” she said, scrambling off the picnic bench. “I’ll start with Grandpa Charles because I already know he tells good stories!”
After a few minutes of searching through the chatting groups of relatives, Emily found Grandpa Charles sitting on the grass with his arm around Grandma A’Dell. “Hi!” said Emily. “I’m a detective. Would you help me?”
“I’ll try,” said Grandpa. “What are you looking for?”
“Stories,” Emily said, “about when you were little.”
“Did I ever tell you about the Missouri snake?” Grandpa asked.
“No,” said Emily. She sat down on the cool grass to listen.
“One day, my brother Lee and I were out playing by a rock pile, when we saw a snake, a great big one. Mom had told us to stay away from snakes because one might be poisonous, and we were scared. Lee and I started throwing rocks at it. We threw so many that we moved nearly the whole rock pile!” he said.
“Did you kill the snake?” Emily asked.
“I don’t know,” Grandpa Charles laughed. “We never did get brave enough to go and see.”
“He’s still afraid of snakes,” said Grandma A’Dell, looking at Grandpa out of the corner of her eye. “I loved snakes, especially the blow snakes that we caught in the cow pasture. Once, right after we were married, your grandpa and I were out on a walk, and I picked up a bitty little garter snake. Your grandpa told me to put it down right then and to never touch another snake if I wanted to touch him again. I let it go because I’d lots rather hug your grandpa than hold a snake.”
Now Emily was laughing too. “Thanks!” she said. “Now I’m going to find some other stories.” She saw Aunt Ruth and ran across the lawn to her.
Aunt Ruth told Emily about Great-Grandma Irma. “When she was a girl,” said Aunt Ruth, “she had a doll buggy. One day when she was outside playing with it, her next-door neighbor, Edmund, came over. He sat on her buggy and smashed it flat! Grandma was so mad that she cried. But when they grew up, Irma and Edmund got married.”
Emily the story detective kept searching. She heard stories about her mom, who was born in a house instead of a hospital, and about Tony the pony that Uncle Josh used to ride—when he could stay on! Tony liked to scrape Josh off by running under a tree branch. She found out about the time when Great-Grandad Ernest went to the store to get fresh brown bread. The baker wrapped the bread in paper so that Grandad could carry it home. On the way, he got so hungry that he poked a little hole in the crust and ate the soft insides. “Mother was sure surprised to have hollow bread,” Grandad said, chuckling.
Emily was having so much fun that she forgot about the other kids. Then, while Uncle Al was telling her about getting his truck stuck in the mud, Brian and three other cousins came over to listen. They were just in time to hear the end of the story: “So I left the truck, walked home, got my sister and our other truck and went back,” said Uncle Al. “And wouldn’t you know, I got the second truck stuck too! My dad finally had to come with the tractor to pull them both out.”
When the story was over, Brian looked at Emily and asked, “Why is everyone telling you stories?”
“Because I’m a story detective,” she said.
“Can we play?” Rachel asked wistfully.
Emily wanted to say no because they wouldn’t play with her before. But she felt too happy to be mean.
“Sure,” she said. “Let’s go see Uncle Andy next.”