Home Topics Success The best stories can happen when things don't go as planned

The best stories can happen when things don’t go as planned

One of my favorite stories my mom ever told me was when she told my dad that he was going to be a dad.

It was a warm night in June 1980. She had been to the doctor earlier that day, and when my father came home from playing softball with his local league, she was waiting for him in a special light green nightgown. She smiled at him when he entered and said, “Honey, you’re going to be a daddy.” He ran to her (after removing his cleats) and put his hand on the light green nightgown to imagine the baby he would meet in February. (Me!).

It was the most romantic story I’ve ever been told, and from the moment I heard it, I was determined to repeat it if I ever became a mother. I would secretly discover my pregnancy. I would keep it quiet all day, patiently waiting for my husband to come back from an evening event and then I would tell him. And of course I would wear a green nightgown.

* * *

It was a Monday evening in August 2010 and the heat was starting to hit me. I was tired and grumpy when my husband Michael and I went to a friend’s house to see the finale of The Bachelorette. After two excruciating hours of listening to Ali and saying, “I think Chris could really be my husband” and “I could see Roberto as my husband,” I couldn’t handle it anymore. I didn’t know if it was the disgusting faux love story or the glass of wine that just didn’t taste right, but whatever it was, we left early.

On the way home I had a thought. What if i am pregnant?

As soon as the thought hit my head, I knew I would need evidence to get it out. I casually asked Michael to stop at a drug store and we walked out with the cheapest pregnancy test (which came with a bonus ovulation pen), an inexpensive two-pack of generic Windex, and six cans of Miller Lite. I was sure that the cashier was judging us.

When we got home, Michael sat down on the couch, opened a beer, and turned on the rest of Ali’s love story with Chris and / or Roberto while I slipped into the bathroom, took the pregnancy test, and played Tetris on my phone while I was waited for the stick to dry. After about two minutes and three levels, I paused the game to review the test. Two lines.

Of course, when you buy the cheapest pregnancy test, even if you get an answer, you are still not sure what the answer is. I pulled the instructions out of the box and apparently two lines mean “pregnant”.

As I stood in our tiny bathroom at home, now strangely crowded with the two pink lines, I realized I had a little problem. The story I had always dreamed of, the story my mother told me that I hoped to recreate for myself was seriously endangered. Michael was sitting in the other room and not playing a softball game with his buddies. My testing wasn’t secret – he knew I was doing it.

And of course I didn’t have a green nightgown.

I stood with my hands on the sink and made up my mind. For the sake of history, I’d lie. If he asked how the test went, I would say it was negative and then find out the rest tomorrow.

“How did the test go?” he asked when I returned to the living room. I looked at him. I tried what to say in my head, “I’m not pregnant.” But instead the opposite came out: “I’m pregnant!” I blurted out.

Shoot! I shouldn’t say that!

Michael looked at me. “You can’t joke about that, Kindra.”

“I am not joking!” Shoot! Why do I always tell the truth! I’m ruining the story! We both got up and marched into the bathroom. We hovered over the counter and stared at those two pink lines – my hands on my hips, his behind his back. Michael pointed out that it said nothing. I explained that this is what happens when you buy the cheap-O-tests that come with a free ovulation pen. Worst. History. Ever.

Michael went out of the bathroom. I followed. We walked around the house in a circle for a few minutes until we stopped on opposite sides of the living room and looked at each other like we had never seen each other before. Strangers. Then I said: a line that I had practiced all my life. “You are going to be a father.”

It didn’t sound as cute as my mother said, and it certainly wasn’t as fashionable without the green nightgown, but Michael smiled and started a story of his own.

* * *

If I’ve learned anything from that night (a lesson I’ve learned a lot lately), the stories we plan and the way they actually happen are often two very different things. And while it can feel like a catastrophe right now, some of the greatest stories unfold in unexpected, unplanned ways.

And we’re better at it.

This article originally appeared in the March / April 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by 2112.sonya / Twenty20

Kindra Hall is the chief storytelling office of SUCCESS, the best-selling author of Stories That Stick, and a sought-after speaker. She is the president of Steller Collective, a marketing agency that focuses on the power of storytelling to solve communication challenges.

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