The Stories We Tell

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.
Philip Pullman.

I own a book I got years ago which is a collection of short stories by women called We Are The Stories We Tell. I always loved that title because it rings so true. The stories we tell about ourselves, about those we love and who share our life, those stories tell so much about who we are.

You know the stories. The ones you tell or listen to every time your family gets together. The story of the time your mom embarrassed herself at the water park. Everyone has pretty much heard it but still you listen and you laugh. There’s the story of how your grandmother and grandfather got married, and even though you weren’t there, you can see it. Or there’s a story of yours. The time your dad’s uncle cut a long splinter of old rotten wood out of your foot – with his pocket knife! Yikes!

Okay, that last one really did happen to me, and let me tell you I will never forget that story or cease to share it with anyone that will listen. Don’t worry, I survived and he did it with a great deal of care and it seemed much scarier that it was.

We all have a story, or two, or twenty, that we carry around with us and whether it is at a family gathering or over drinks with friends those stories will come out.

The last two days I’ve had a lot of extended family at our house while my Aunt is in from Oregon. She brought a photo album and old photos of my dad and her and my uncle and grandparents. Looking through the pictures with the variety of extended family, I heard a few stories I had never heard before or saw things from a perspective I hadn’t seen them from before. I also looked at the pictures and wondered about all those stories the people in the pictures had to tell. Of course as a writer, I couldn’t help but have ideas spin out in all directions. 😉

One story I heard and hadn’t known before was that my grandmother was recognized for selling war bonds. It was cool to learn something new about a woman I only sort of knew as she was older. I had always known that she was a strong and selfless woman. I started to wonder with this new story what she would be like had she lived in my time instead of her own. Would that sales ability translated into a high powered career? Or would she have been a home builder and teacher as she was in her own time? She’d make a great character. I wish I had talked to her more and gotten her story when she was alive.

My grandparents on both sides lived during a wartime I’ve only studied. My paternal grandfather counseled returning veterans. My maternal grandfather was a veteran of the Pacific War. So many stories from all of them. I wouldn’t have known some of those stories, about my own family, if someone, in this case my aunt, hadn’t told me.

How many stories are out there that we’ve never heard? I’ve often thought how the older generations have so much to share with us if we will just listen and then carry those stories forward. But everyone we meet has a story to share. Maybe it is one they haven’t shared, but need to tell. Or it maybe one they’ve told before but it makes them laugh, or they know it will make someone else laugh. Maybe it is a story that tells a history of the family, or of a time, or of the land where we live.

I hope I always remember to listen.

Then of course there are the stories some wished would go away. Hey, CJ, remember when you got that splinter?

Oh yes, come sit here with me and let me just tell you all about it! 🙂