Why do Stories Matter?

When I was a child, two friends of mine and I used to spend time at Rechej’s farm. You’ve probably never heard about Rechej’s farm, or, in case you have, you don’t know the same things about it which we knew.

For most, Rechej’s farm, was just a common abandoned estate which held an old house built in German style and six decrepit barns.

We, the children, called these barns pigsty, and we spent most of our time playing in these pigsties. Why did we call them like that? I have no idea; I guess because there were plenty of troughs and from our point of view only pigs could have eaten from troughs.

There, we made swords from elder tree branches, we played war, and sometimes we climbed to the roof and tried to demolish it and we often succeeded in our intention. It was enough to take a piece of a brick, or any other large stone, and to hit the hollow block from which the roof was constructed. Little by little, block by block, and the reinforcement bar would break under the weight of the roof and a piece of roof would collapse to the ground.

It remains a mystery how none of us three died during these activities, but here we are, alive and well, although we demolished the majority of the roofs of these old barns. Our intention was to remove these barns from the face of the earth. We worked on our goal for months, but Rechej’s farm survived bigger adversities than three little boys.

When we weren’t occupied with demolishing, we would sit on the concrete pillars of the roof and tell stories to each other about Rechej’s farm. Although, when I sit on that pillar some twenty years later, it seems to me that all of these stories were made up; I can’t speak in the name of my two friends, but I certainly made up all my stories.

We told stories about the Kraut, Rechej, who owned the estate until World War II began. Sometimes, that Kraut was shot, some other times buried alive, and sometimes he ran away together with Mrs. Rechej and their four children.

We tried to guess what had happened to him, how he felt when he had to leave everything he owned and we wondered if he was serving in Hitler’s army or did he make new troughs and was selling hot sausages.

We used to believe that one day his descendants will come back and declare ownership of the land which their grandfather left and we believed that they will evict the folks who moved into that house because they didn’t have any other place to live; just as their grandfather had been evicted once.

Sometimes, we hated Rechej because he was a damned Kraut, and some other times we felt sorry for him because he was an innocent man who had to leave his home and the ground on which he had spent a lifetime of hard labor.

The three of us weren’t the only kids who used to come and play at Rechej’s farm; we would invite someone from school, from the other street, from the hill, from the other block, but for them it was nothing more than an empty, meaningless estate; none of them knew the story.

Sometimes, one of the new boys would stick around and come with us to the farm more often, but only three of us went there each day; when it rained, when it snowed, and when the land was burning from the heat.

Only the three of us knew all the stories and the mysteries of that outlandish farm for which we often believed that it hides a treasure. We dug searching for it, but we have never found it. Perhaps we weren’t persistent enough, and perhaps we found it but didn’t recognize it as such.

Today, I’m not sure whether that man, Rechej, really existed or one of us made him up. All right, maybe it wasn’t the three of us who made him up, but I’m sure that someone had to create him. Even if there was a German called Rechej, he certainly is not the one from our stories.

However, I know that without him, and especially without the stories we told each other, that farm was nothing more than an abandoned estate and these barns were nothing more than some old barns, and all of that was one big nothing. 

Without stories, everything is one big nothing; Colossus is an old theater, Parthenon is a set of old pillars, The Great Wall of China is just a long wall, and a Plymouth rock is just a damn rock. 

Some decided to write down all these stories. Therefore, today, centuries later, millions of people still visit these places about which we tell stories. They visit them just to feel the energy these places hold, not realizing that the energy is being carried around with them, through stories which they heard about these monumental places.

The stories are the fabric of meaning and purpose, not just of objects but of ourselves. In the eyes of the others, we are the stories that are being told about us, and in our own eyes we are the stories we tell about ourselves.