My dad told me stories. He told me stories of a boy who lived his whole life upside down, and stories of a pony named Tony. He told me stories of a child eating steaming-hot homemade applesauce in the kitchen and drinking ice-cold homemade root beer in the cellar. He told me stories of girls just my age who found treasures under floorboards, and animals in my yard who loved classical music and poetry. He told me stories of collecting rainwater so his sister could wash her hair, and of being so shy that it pained him to be called on in class.
For the most part I knew which stories to believe, but sometimes the line between imagination and reality blurred. Some part of me may always believe my mother did really take my father, who couldn’t swim, out in a paddle boat and tell him if he didn’t marry her she’d dump him in the water.
And do I know for sure whether my Grampa, who directed traffic at the Charles Street Circle for 30 years and was known as The Smiling Irish Cop, was really the inspiration for Michael in Make Way for Ducklings? No, and I’d just as soon not. A good story leaves a bit of space open so you can turn around in it, check it out from different directions, and make up your own mind what you see.