And so it’s up to me — the middle child, and the least opinionated — to set the record straight, or nearly straight. We were a family whose favorite story was the story of my mother and father’s romance: how Father bought the bear, how Mother and Father fell in love and had, in rapid succession, Frank, Franny, and me (“Bang, Bang, Bang!” as Franny would say); and, after a brief rest, how they then had Lilly and Egg (“Pop and Fizzle,” Franny says). The story we were told as children, and retold to each other when we were growing up, tends to focus on those years we couldn’t have known about and can see now only in those years more clearly than I see them in the years I actually can remember, because those times I was present, of course, are colored by the fact that they were up-and-down times — about which I have up-and-down opinions. Toward the infamous summer of the bear, and the magic of my mother and father’s courtship, I can allow myself a more consistent point of view. When Father would stumble in telling us the story — when he would contradict an earlier version, or leave out our favorite parts of the tale — we would shriek at him like violent birds. “Either you’re lying now or you lied the last time,” Franny (always the harshest of us) would tell him, but Father would shake his head, innocently. “Don’t you understand?” he would ask us. “You imagine the story better than I remember it.” –John Irving, from "The Hotel New Hampshire"