First You Tell

I'm immersed in grandmothering this week. This is not an activity I have much experience with, although I achieved that status over fourteen years ago. Since our nearest grandchildren live about 1700 miles away, time with any of the six is short and precious. This week is the first time one has come to visit alone, and I'm enjoying every minute we are spending together.

For the past couple of days I've discovered how very little this young fellow knows about our family, and I've been telling stories more or less non-stop. Many of these stories are already written, but for this eleven-year-old, telling the stories is important. Now that he's heard them, sooner or later he'll be happy to have print copies. He's hearing stories about ancestors, about what things were like when I was young, about how we used to do things, and what I think about many things. He’s even hearing stories about his daddy.

But it isn't just “telling.” Dialog is involved, making these stories highly interactive, and easier for him to remember. We make frequent visits to the computer to look at old pictures too. That’s a great way to surface yet more stories. There really isn't any way to beat the power of telling stories in context!

As I think back, I've told many of these same stories to our older two grandchildren, but they already know a lot more about their family background. Visits with them tend to be less rushed, and the importance of the combination of telling/writing had not come through so clearly to me.

Although I say many of the stories have been written, I'm surprised how many haven't, and I've been making notes of those on my story idea list. The fact he hasn't even heard the stories underscores the importance of writing. His father has heard all these stories, most of them many times, but they have not been important enough for him to pass on, at least not yet. I’m reminded of a phrase that I think may have originated with Zig Ziglar: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Time with grandchildren — or any young relative — is a great way to regenerate your story well when it seems to run a bit low. It's a good reminder to get back to basics and not loose sight of the importance of Plain Old Stories.

Write now: a personal or family history story you recall holding your grandchildren’s attention. They’ll appreciate having the reminder, with details confirmed. If you don’t (yet) have grandchildren, write for future ones, or nieces and nephews.


Leah said...

This is such a great idea! There are so many stories that my Grandfather told me when I was young. I wish I had them on paper now that he is not around to tell them anymore.

Herm said...

Sharon, I find children of all ages love the telling of the story. Great sentence structure and catchy phrases still don't measure up to the animation of a good story told by a good storyteller.

I married reading and telling of a story to my young adult children, neices and nephews. Now, one nephew wants to arrange An Evening With Uncle Herchel for all his friends. He wants to set up the patio and serve whatever while I tell stories. He makes flyers for these little projects.

He didn't say anything about the cost of admission or pay though.

Pat's Place said...

Sharon, I have done the same thing with my grandchildren and now I hear them repeating them to me! The fact that one family lives in the town where I grew up helps spawn many, many stories and the grandchildren actually ask me to drive by familiar places and tell the stories over and over again. Guess I also need to get them into print.

Ritergal said...

Herm and Pat, thanks for the affirmation. It's hard for me to realize that there are people who prefer not to tell stories about the past. You'd have to find a large muzzle to keep me silent!

The written versions are indeed important to keep the stories alive when we are no longer able to tell them on demand.

ybonesy said...

What lucky grandchildren you have! A storyteller as a grandmother. And you're young, still, so plenty of energy to boot. 8)

Tara said...

I think that is great Ritergal! I always wished that had all of the stories my Grandfather would tell me written down. They were some of the most cherished times I spent with him.

JoJo said...

Recently I was telling a story with sarcastic reference to growing up in the time before the wheel was invented, as I was speaking to my son-in-law. He understood what I meant, but I looked over in time to catch the looks on my 7 & 3-and-a-half year old Grands who truly believed it most likely was true! I did correct myself or I could just imagine what they would repeat on the playground !!

JoJo said...

I also remember hearing stories from my elders who were candidates for the most boring people in my Universe, resisted any engaging conversation other than my grandmother, and now so wish I had those moments again.

One of the trigger moments for my interest in memoirs writing was when I read my mother's obituary ten years following her death and for the first time saw that she was born on an Indian reservation in Nebraska. As we had always lived in Illinois to my knowledge it awakened a myriad of questions like: "What was my delicate little grandmother doing on an Indian reservation in 1915? How did she arrive in podunk Illinois and raise her family?" Train? Wagon?

Any of the people who have answers to that question have passed and I have only my imagination to try to conjure up answers. This is perhaps a geneology issue but I have not yet gotten into that exploration.