Several years ago I dated, very briefly, someone who told me quite unkindly that everything I said was “always a story.” Not a story in an untruthful or made up way, just that I always spoke in a story telling manner. I consider myself a story-teller therefore this comment he intended as an insult was one of the best compliments I’d received!
It is possible that this innate, predisposition comes to me genetically. My grandma was a story-teller. She used to tell me about growing up in a small village in the Ukraine. She recalled how the houses were organized along the river and what they did for fun. She was the youngest of her troupe of friends. These older friends would encourage her to steal eggs from underneath setting hens. One egg fit exactly into each of her small hands. They would run all the way to the village store that was owned by a Jewish man. Then, trade the eggs for candy. She laughed recounting this as she realized as an adult that those eggs may well have had developing chicks in them.
She recalled immigrating to Canada with her family and also the family they left behind. There were many stories about life on the homestead. At five years old her father asked her to return the scythe he had borrowed from the neighbor. His hands were a bit crippled up from being shot in the war. Walking alone down the path through the bush she encountered a “bear.” She chopped the bear up with the scythe, dropped the tool in the middle of the path, and ran all the way home to tell her dad she killed a bear. When she mimicked what the animal was doing – quickly munching its teeth together, her father instantly knew it wasn’t a bear, but a woodchuck she had seen. She would add, “I was five years old! To me it was a bear.”
There were stories about the team of horses that were able to get the family home through the dense fog even though my grandpa couldn’t see a thing to steer them in the right direction. He would drop the lines and let the horses get them home.
Raising children was also an adventure. There was the time my aunt, who was all dolled up in a pretty party dress my grandma had sewn, played in the axle grease on the wagon wheel. She ruined her dress before they even left for the party.
Or the time the wind blew the barn door down and my grandma was racing around in a storm looking for a lost lamb. She exclaimed “I must have run back and forth across that barn door a dozen times! Then I lifted the door only to find the lamb squashed – but alive and well under there.” She always ended that story by stating it was a good thing she weighed less than 100 pounds back then.
I liked to hear the stories about what it was like when she attended school. She was always very proud of the fact that she was able to skip a grade. She talked about how they were only allowed to speak English, therefore she had to learn the language. She told one particularly funny story about how she had to tune in some bullies who were picking on her younger / baby brother. She hit the bully over the head with her lard pail lunch kit and they never bothered her little brother again!
There were many stories and my grandma would tell them to me over and over again, because I would ask her to. She had this big arm-chair in the living room with wide rectangular shaped arms. She would sit in that chair and I would sit on the arm beside her. I’d ask her to tell me a story. Sometimes she would say, “you have heard them all!” I would reply ,“tell me again.” One day I asked her what stories I would tell people. She said, “you will have your own stories to tell, and maybe you will tell some of my stories too.” And so I am.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.” Anne Lamott
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