Stories, Stories, Everywhere

Yarn-StashOne passage near the end of Stephanie Pearl-McFee’s memoir, Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter, struck me as a poignant reminder that stories are in the very air we breathe. In this scene Stephanie and a friend are dividing up the yarn stash of a friend whose rheumatoid arthritis has made it impossible to continue knitting. Story itself  becomes an essential element:

… Lene tells us the story of each yarn as we take it, and slowly, we start to feel better. For the moment we are soothed, lost in the tale each yarn has to tell us.

We pay attention to Lene’s wishes. That blue mohair, the one the color of baby eyes, it was supposed to be a shawl for Lene’s friend Michelle. I take that one. I lay it in the bin and make a mental note: Shawl for Michelle. Ken gets the discounted Aran-weight tweed. Lene had planned an intricately cabled pullover for herself with that yarn. I watch Ken; he’s making the same note-to-self, recording carefully what Lene’s intentions were. The chocolate milk alpaca (a scarf for Lene’s mother, Bea) goes into my bin … .

Stephanie doesn’t mention writing these stories at the time, but telling them soothed Lene, and hearing them soothed the friends. Writing about it in the memoir surely soothed Stephanie again and surely most readers are moved by the touching account. She returns to the subject several pages later when she reports that she did, in fact, knit many items Lene had been unable to complete, and that each time she knit a gift from yarn she received from Lene, the gift tag said, “From Lene.”

This section was a tender counterpoint to most of the book, which was rollickingly funny and laced with evocative sensory imagery. I have dubbed Stephanie Pearl-McFee the “Erma Bombeck of the Knitting World,” and even though I am only a very occasional knitter, I look forward to reading her newly released book, All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin

In a previous post I told about a friend’s tea pot collection and the advice I gave her on how to write the stories they held. Not long ago I saw her again and asked if she’d done any writing.

“Yes. I work on it every now and then, and it’s great fun. I make an extra copy of each and stick it in the pot to keep them together. That way whoever gets the pot next – not soon, I hope! – will know its story, adding value to the pots. I’ve taken pictures of each to put in the computer files. It makes quite an album. Stop by sometime and I’ll show it to you.”

Whether you need a writing prompt for practicing description skills or want to record the stories of your treasured possessions, you too can be soothed with memories as you write the stories of your stuff, and your family will appreciate having them later. You may find it useful to have those details at hand if you later write a more comprehensive memoir.

Write now: Look around the room where you sit. Find some object that’s meaningful to you and jot down a paragraph or few of memories about it. When and how did you get it? What has it meant to you? How have you used it? What memories does it hold? You might want to take a picture to put with the story and make it part of your legacy of family history.

Image credit: Katherine 


Linda said...

I, too, am fond of writing stories about possessions--my mother's dining room table, my husband's grandmother's ironing board (that I still use!), my grandfather's old keys. Some day--some day--I'm going to write "If my carry-on bag could talk" because for 18 years it has traveled with world with me, many thousands of miles, from the most primitive places in Africa to the finest cities in Europe. Don't you think that would be a fun project? I do. :)

Thanks for your inspiration.


Samantha said...

Sharon, I imagine your mind as a vast and beautiful wonderland (a forest, actually), filled with the stories of inspired women (trees, like your sketch) and the books they have written, strung together with your own creative thoughts (the branches and leaves that form the roof of the forest, connecting all the trees) of all the possibilities. Whenever you tell us about a book, I feel a strong need to read it, too, because you bring it to life in a way that speaks of learning and growing and joy. "The Erma Bombeck" of the knitting world? I can hardly wait to read it! I can't imagine how you find the time to read all that you do and to write about it all, but I'm trying to keep up - in this enchanted forest of true and wonderful stories.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Linda, I can't wait to read that book. Have you started writing tiny stories to fill it?

Sharon Lippincott said...

I don't read nearly as much as I'd like. If you read back through past posts, you'll find several where I mention that attentive reading is one of the best investments any writer can make in learning the craft. I used to read, then promptly forget. Now I study as I read, highlighting succulent passages and pondering how the story is put together, what makes it work (or not), and what I can learn from it. But YARN WHORE was just a really fast read. It's a seemingly simple book, though not a superficial one.

SuziCate said...

This made me think of decorating the Christmas tree and telling my sons the stories of every single ornament they placed on the tree...I wonder if they will remember the tale behind each one.

Sharon Lippincott said...

What a lovely idea. And you plan to have this tree decorated 2011? LOL!

Linda said...

Sharon, in answer to your question/comment, I have not written stories about my carry-on bag, but I have written a book about Africa in which that bag was a constant companion. It intrigues me to some day find time to write stories that would be "If this carry-on bag could talk." If I didn't need to sleep at night I'd have so much more time to write!

I love SuziCate's comment about telling her boys the stories behind each Christmas decoration. I hope she writes them down!


kathleen said...

Sharon, This post and all the comments really resonate with me as I think of all the prized possessions that hold their own stories. I love Linda's carry-on bag and SuziCate's Christmas ornament stories. I have special Christmas ornaments from every phase of my life so when I hang them on the tree, I reflect on all the people and life circumstances they represent. For the ornaments I bought myself to nurture hope in my alcoholic son's recovery,I have written a note in the ornament box and added an update each year. They certainly tell a story of the triumphs and trials of each year. But they represent tangible symbols of hope. Therein lies the thread of my story. So powerful! You always get me going, Sharon. I echo Samantha's praise for how you guide us all through the enchanted forest. And I highly recommend Linda's book, "Grandma's Letters from Africa" if you want to experience Africa firsthand.(I reviewed it on Amazon)Thanks for another great post.

Sharon Lippincott said...

I love the community developing in the comments here, and I have to say, you are making me fell like a tough act for myself to follow! All I can do is trust in Source, which is where this all comes from. My main contribution is to sit down and record the ideas.