My friends, For the next two weeks I’ll be re-posting a few favorite posts from the past.  I hope you enjoy this one from August, 2011.
Last Saturday my half-Italian husband told me about a funny thing that happened earlier that day when he was at the grocery store with his brother-in-law, Gary. “Where’s the tomato sauce?”  he asks Gary. Gary looks up and points to a sign and says, “Aisle 3. It says ‘tomato sauce.’”
They go to aisle 3 but all they find is ready-made spaghetti sauce in jars. “Hey!” Fred says.  “I’m not using that Paul Newman, Chef Boyardee crap.  I’m Italian.  I make my own spaghetti sauce.” Just then a 50ish blonde bimbo-type comes up behind him and in a nasal New Jersey accent says, “Hey! Don’t ask a man where something is in a grocery store. It’s in the next aisle with the vegetables. I know how to make spaghetti sauce.  I’m married to an Italian. My license plate says: “Fugeddaboudit!”
So they go to the next aisle. He sees cans of tomato paste, tomato puree, whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, but no tomato sauce.  He’s complaining to Gary about this when a very proper, well-groomed Atlanta matron standing nearby says politely, “Excuse me, sir. You’re looking for tomato sauce?  It’s in the next aisle!”  This cracks him up. As he tells me this story he’s giggling so much he can barely talk.
My husband’s ability to tell a good story is one of the things I love most about him. I used to have trouble with it though. Coming from scrupulous-minded, strait-laced Dutch stock, I worried about his blatant distortions of the truth. Maybe he had a serious memory problem. Maybe even a character flaw. “That’s not how it happened,” I’d say in shocked disbelief.  “I was there!”
His whole family’s that way.  I think they got it from his step-mother, Helen.  His youngest brother, Tony, and I were talking about her the other day and he said, “You know, I think the word that best describes her is…” he paused for dramatic emphasis… “Embellishment.” “Embellishment?” I asked. He nodded emphatically, “Embellishment!” He would know.  He’s an interior designer who jokes, “Never done ’til overdone!”
While I was pouring my homemade limoncello after our spaghetti dinner Saturday night Fred told everyone about an incident at a friend’s villa in Florence, Italy many years ago.  “So,” he says, “after we’re installed in the guest cottage we go up to the villa where the chef has prepared a fabulous meal and our friend tells me to go to the wine cellar and pick out a good wine. I’m down there looking at all these dusty bottles thinking they have to be old and expensive. I didn’t know much about wine in those days and I didn’t want to take the best one so I choose a smaller bottle thinking it’s probably less expensive.  Upstairs I open it, pour it in our wine glasses, and it’s yellow! Turns out it’s limoncello!”  Everyone had a good laugh while I did a mental eye-roll.  “There was no guest cottage.  There was no chef,” I told them. “That’s embellishment.” More laughter.
Unfazed, he went on to tell the story of our wedding. “Jeanie’s mother made her dress and said she could either give us $300.00 or spend it on a fancy wedding,” he said. My mother didn’t make my dress, and it wasn’t $300.00.  It was $200. I know. I was there. Embellishment.
So what’s more important?  Telling a good story or telling the truth? One of the happiest outcomes of my inner work is that I’m learning the wisdom of lightening up. Sometimes truth is overrated.  Like limoncello,  a little bit of embellishment can be good for the soul.
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18 Responses

  1. Love this post! It reminds me of my dear grandparents who lived around the corner from me throughout my childhood.
    “That’s not how it happened,” I’d say in shocked disbelief. “I was there!”
    That’s exactly what my grandmother would say to my grandfather. I think their back and forth about what was true and what was not forever made me a fan of the art of embellishing life into story. My grandfather, whom I admired so much for his support of my own eccentricities, would wink at me and shrug off my grandmother’s pleas to tell truth.
    Thank you for bringing to mind some wonderful memories!

    1. How lucky you are to have had a great storyteller in your family. I didn’t grow up with one, but married one, so consider myself lucky too! It was my pleasure sharing this. I’m so glad it brought back great memories.

  2. We’ll there’s the “just the facts,ma’am” that help you get from A to B, or the stories with a little added seasoning which bring out the flavours of a truth, and these are the ones that tend to live with you. Grateful to have had a couple of truly great storytellers in my life, verging on the Rabelaisian, and they were my most cherished of friends.

    1. I repeat what I said to Debra, “How lucky you are!! I wouldn’t trade my family inheritance for anything, but there are times—like now—when I dearly wish we’d had a few characters among my ancestors. My father came the closest, but unfortunately he died when I was 11 and I only remember two of his outrageous stories. After that, there was little occasion for humor in my life……until I met my husband! To this day he still comes up with funny expressions I’ve never heard, and they always leave me laughing. How lucky I am, too! 🙂 Thanks for writing.

  3. Embellishment is always better than the truth. If I sometimes take it too far, I will quickly add no at the end of the story. (Sometimes I just let it be)

  4. Thanks for this Jeanie! One of my dear friends tells the crazzzzziest stories and it always feels so good to laugh incredulously at them. He plays it out to the end, “Why are you laughing at a true story??”, just making me giggle even harder. Cheers to your opening “blast from the past” post!

  5. … Fabulous story Jean, which though my lens also perhaps evidences the personality opposition which appears to be there in a complementary but different husband and wife couplet. … … extraverted feeling with intuition; and introverted thinking with sensing perhaps? … I write this knowing my wife Sheila and I are the psychological opposites I mention above and your little piece of theatre above has occurred, and continues to occur constantly during our fifty year marriage .. she does have a word for my storytelling interpretation though and it is not the gift of intuition I declare … she calls it ‘bullshit” … and she, like Jung, ‘knows’ the absolute truth, which usually comes back in some form to haunt me through my continual embellishment of reality … thanks for sharing. Sheila will be content to know she is not alone in her desire to keep life a factual journey … Blessings, Andi

    1. Thank you, Andi. I need more knowledge of typology to understand the nuances. By introverted thinking with sensing do you mean that as a strong Introvert I keep my Thinking and Sensing within–i.e. Introverted–and interact with the world through my intuition and feeling functions? I never did quite get that! Anyway, yes, your wife is not alone, but I suspect she is just as grateful as I am for a partner who knows how to keep life fun and interesting!! Blessings, Jeanie

      1. Jean, I know you know … 🙂 … yes, and no!
        How about this … We interact with the world with all eight of our function attitudes, but Jung’s writings suggest that those attitudinal functions at the upper end of the table are more conscious – (EF and EN in my case and also similar in my projection of your husband’s possible top couplet) – than those at the lower end ( IT and IS in my wife Sheila’s case, and in my projection of a possible dominant couplet for your good-self) – which are less conscious or ‘unconscious’. Thus in my relationship with my wonderful wife, as with those couples whose preferred top couplet functions are psychological opposites, interactions will come partly from conscious awareness, and partly from instinctive reactions emanating from the unconscious.. As we age we seem to be better able to cope with those behaviours, dichotomously opposed to our conscious gifts, which have the potential to strike a discord with us and create disharmony. Is there an ageing wisdom here? … Blessings, Andi

  6. Hello Jean … please delete or ignore my earlier response which is missing content … another try at an explanation for my hypothesis … feel free to ignore this also!
    We interact with the world with all eight of our function attitudes, but Jung’s writings suggest that those attitudinal functions at the upper end of the table are more conscious – EF and EN is my conscious reality and also the couplet I have chosen as my projection of your husband’s possible top couplet in my interpretation of your ‘story’. If EN/EF is my/his most conscious, then our unconscious shadow couplet would then be from the lowest pairing, IT with IS. For my wife Sheila and in my projection of a possible dominant couplet for your good-self, the opposite conscious couplet pairing might be your dominant gift – IT with IS might be your most conscious, while EF and EN could be least conscious. Thus in my relationship with my wonderful wife, as with those couples whose preferred top/lowest couplet functions are psychological opposites, interactions will come partly from conscious awareness, and partly from instinctive reactions emanating from the unconscious.. As we age we seem to be better able to cope with behaviours, dichotomously opposed to our conscious gifts, which we perceive as ‘shadow’ or inappropriate, and which have the potential to strike a discord with us to create disharmony … Sorry about the confusion … Blessings, Andi

    1. Hi Andi,
      I’m just leaving and won’t be able to respond for a day or so, but will asap!! Thanks so much for your wonderful long response. Jeanie

      1. Thank you, Andi! This is fascinating. As an INFJ, then this means that IN and IF would be my conscious couplet, right? Then this means that my ES and ETwould be least conscious. This feels right to me. As an ESTJ, my husband’s strongest/most conscious couplet would be ES/ET, and his lowest, IN/IF. This is definitely true of him. So yes, our preferred top/lowest couplet functions are psychological opposites, and this has always been problematic for us! This is an aspect of typology I’ve never quite understood before and it may take me a while to see how this translates to my behavior and our relationship, but I intend to work on it! Consciously! 🙂

  7. I love this Jeannie! As you know I also have the same problem with the men in my family (maybe it’s just men) and need to learn to lighten up a little!

    1. You might have something there about this possibly being a guy thing…..I’m wondering if anyone knows women who are like this…. If so, I’d love to hear about it. But either way, Imaginative story-telling can be so much fun that it’s probably better to enjoy it than to pounce on it for not being the literal truth. I have great respect for the healing power of imagination and this just might be a good example of it! As they say, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

  8. Hello Jean,
    This is actually not a response to this particular post, so I apologize. I couldn’t find a contact button on WordPress, so I figured I would ask here.
    I’m a teacher, so I will have some time off of work, which I want to spend focusing more on creative and spiritual growth. I have made it a goal to attend a group focused on Jungian Psychology and dream work, at least once. I don’t know of anything in particular going on in St. Augustine where I live, so I will probably have to travel a little. I know that you also live in Florida, so I figured you could probably point me in the right direction. Anything in North or Central Florida would be great. I would love to attend one of your groups, if it isn’t too far away.
    I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your help!
    Best Wishes,

    1. Hi Emerald. No problem. I’m on vacation now with very bad and limited internet connection and very little time to respond, so if you will e-mail me your question I’ll keep it as new mail and answer as soon as I can via e-mail, where we can converse more freely. This may take a week or two, but I’ll respond asap. I’m at jeanraffa@aol.com. Thanks!

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