Monday, July 13, 2009

Telling Stories

Even though generalities can be dangerous things, I think I can safely make the claim that most people love stories, either hearing them or telling them (or watching them). People have been telling stories for thousands of years, right? At the risk of oversimplifying, before TV and movies, people listened to radio programs, and before radio, people found their entertainment in books and plays and before that....well, you get the idea.

So when the subject of storytelling came up recently, I jumped on the bandwagon. I don't have the gift of fiction the way many of my friends do but I do enjoy stories of people that I can identify as true. (Among academics there's a huge discussion about how much fiction you can find in nonfiction, which is true, and that's kind of fun to see how we all remember the same stories in our families differently, but that's a subject for another time and place.)

My mother talked a lot more about her childhood than my dad did. His childhood was spent divided between a boys home in Utah and his grandparents' farm along with his numerous uncles (who became his brothers when his grandparents adopted him, which I found hilarious). I'd like to spend more time on his history but this particular blog is about family stories in general so I'll save his story for another time and place.

One of my favorite stories growing up was hearing how my mom's house burned down at Christmas. They had just come home from shopping or a Christmas program or who knows what and they saw the smoke and fire and realized it was there house. The best part of the story, for me as a young girl, was hearing that their presents were saved from the fire because they were on layaway. (I was young, what other excuse can I give?) All the kids had to spend Christmas farmed out among neighbors. That couldn't have been fun on Christmas. But the pathos of the story certainly captured my imagination.

I also loved my mom's story that she used to write plays and perform them in her backyard and charge a safety pin for admission. It just was fun to learn that my mom was so creative.
Then there was the boy she worked with in a drugstore who used to kiss her in the backroom (sadly, she thought that meant something, but it didn't).

Another story I loved, from my maternal grandmother this time, was how all the kids in her family (this would have been around 1910-1915) had the whooping cough and the parents had to drag the mattresses out to the front yard, where it was cool, so they could sleep at night. (My father's mother died when he was six so sadly I have no stories from her and since my father's father had almost no contact with our family for most of our lives I have virtually no stories from him. So I try to get as much from my dad as I can, although as I said, he grew up with his grandparents and in a boys home during the Depression, so obviously there's a story there.)

Which reminds me that I need to make more of an effort to get more of my father's few memories of his father. And that is the point of my blog. That we have stories in our families that deserve our efforts, both for ourselves and for those of our friends we share our stories with. I've loved the family stories shared by my friends here on the V-Formation blog. In fact, I've gone back through others' posts on this blog a few times reading and rediscovering stories, and it's felt almost scriptural at times as I've learned, and remembered lessons learned before but forgotten, from my friends' experiences.

And that, after all, is one of the great purposes of sharing stories, to feel connected to each other and be reminded of some of the important lessons of this life experience we're all sharing. To share and show love, to have and share faith, to overcome and learn from hard times, and be grateful for all that we receive, enjoy, and grow from. Thanks, my friends.


Jennie said...

I love this, Val. I'm a firm believer in story telling. That's how we get a sense of family connections to earlier generations. Children remember and pass on what they hear in story form.

Gale Sears said...

I agree, Val. It's so important to share stories of our childhood with our children. They need to know about our worries, pranks,and mistakes. And I'm actually amazed that my grown children have remembered much.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Family stories are family treasures. Wonderful post, Val.