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Friday, July 8, 2011

Tell Us A Story

          "Tell us a story!" my sister and I would plead with my mother on those certain evenings that seemed to exist for story-telling.

           We would eagerly sit close to her leaning forward in anticipation and so as not to miss a single word.  She must have learned much of her tale-spinning technique from her mother.   My grandmother would tell a story with such gravity and intensity that she held you captive with her every word, and then her voice would quiver and our eyes would widen as prickles of fear and tension crawled up our spines, raising the hairs on the backs of our necks.  In retrospect, I think the quiver in her voice came mostly from her about to break out into laughter as she played with our imaginations, but at the time it seemed like a shiver of impending terror.

          When my mother told us a story she would make it more playful, but she still kept some of the frightfulness that Grandmother was so effective at injecting into a story.  We would ask for the same favorites over and over again.  They were simple stories about her childhood.

          There was the story about the long-bearded man who accused my grandfather of stealing his pants and the next-door neighbor lady who they were convinced was a witch.  The stories of when her family's house burned down, when she got hit in the head with a chunk of coal, or when she went to New York City with her dance class were stories we heard repeatedly and savored them every time we heard them.

          My dad could tell a joke which would always make us laugh, but my mother had a special magic of telling a good story.  That's probably what has been the biggest influence in my desire to tell stories.  I want to have that skill of transporting others to another place-- to cast a spell that will enchant, entertain, and amuse.

         Years later, when I had children of my own, it always brought me such a feeling of happiness to hear my kids say, "Daddy, tell us a story."

         



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48 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

I wish I could say the same thing. Story telling was not apart of my childhood, but I've instilled the importance of reading into my children. I am thankful they look forward to going to the library.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

It's good to relflect back on your childhood and remember what gave you pleasure, Nothing like a good story, probably you may have recalled some of them for your own children. Enjoyed the post,

Have a good week-end.
Yvonne.

Pam said...

Your children and your readers agree that you have succeeded in learning the art of great story telling. How wonderful to have had two gift teachers!

Cathy said...

Hello Lee
.
Its amazing what we remember learning as we sat at our Mother's knee. It so sad that some of todays parents just don't have the time (or say they don't have the time) to read to or tell stories to their children.
Thanks for dropping by theother day and for your comment on Winter Wednesday
Take care
Cathy

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My parents didn't tell a lot of stories, but my grandparents did!

Cathy Webster (Olliffe) said...

Awww... that is so sweet.
There is nothing better than hearing someone tell a story.

Carol Fleisher said...

I love a good story. Unfortunately, my parents didn't tell a lot of stories growing up and my grandparents passed away when I was young. Thank goodness for older people at my church who are more than willing to pass on their words of wisdom and their wonderful stories.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Please tell me that you have written down your mothers and grandmothers stories to the best of your ability. When our oldsters tell stories to our children yes, they are entertaining, but they also hold a great deal of significance about the time they lived in. We see that only when we get older.

Paula Slade said...

My grandmother told stories the same way as yours Lee! :D

Such wonderful and sweet memories you have. Thank you for sharing.

Shellie said...

That's a nice memory. The stories I told my kids usually came from a book. Except on special occasions when the light were out at night and we sat with candlelight or flashlights and told ghost stories or urban legend. Fun!

Rae said...

It always amazes me how simple childhood influences can direct our paths later in life. You have definitely inherited that story telling art!

Vanilla Mama said...

Nice memory - thanks for sharing!

Arlee Bird said...

Miranda -- Reading teaches the structure, mechanics, and craft of preserving the story to leave a definitive record. And reading can be so much fun and teach us so much.

Yvonne -- I retold my mother's and grandmother's stories to my children, but mostly told my own since I think that's what kids like to hear most.

Pam -- Thank you for the kind words. I do attribute much of my love of stories to those early influences.

Cathy -- Sadly I think many parents allow media like television to tell the stories instead.

Alex -- The older generation, in the past at least and probably today, seems to have more time and heart for telling stories.

Cathy Webster -- I like to hear the stories that others have to tell--and they really don't have to be all that elaborate or exciting.

Carol -- I think there are many elderly people who have stories to tell and no one to listen to them. It's sad.

Delores -- You are right. I've told my mother that she should write the story of her life. My father did and it's a wonderful treasure to have. If nothing else I should write down the stories as I remember them.

Paula -- Many grandmothers have a real gift for telling a tale.

Shellie -- I often read stories to my kids, but the ones that they liked best were the stories from my childhood or the ones I made up.

Rae --- Parents should be very careful what they tell their children--kids absorb what they hear like a sponge.

Vanilla --- Thanks for stopping by today.

Lee

Roxie said...

Arlee, will you tell us a story? Please?

jabblog said...

Listening to a story is wonderful. That's why I love the radio.

Laura Josephsen said...

Hearing and telling stories is such a special thing. It's so great telling my kids stories, or being able to say, "Tell me a story," and hearing the tales that they spin. :D

Manzanita said...

This is such a dear post and what a blessing to hear you tell of your childhood of story telling. Many cultures would have no history if it were not for story telling. Now your children will carry out the tradition and tell the stories to your grandchildren.
Manzanita@Wannabuyaduck

Teresa aka Journaling Woman said...

Since my dad writes, we always had great stories to listen to.

Great post, Lee. Brings back memories.

Arlee Bird said...

Roxie -- There will be more stories to come.

Janice -- The audio experience of hearing stories is very different than seeing a movie or a TV show. Hearing stories or re-enactments on the radio is much more rare these days, but I too like to listen when they are available.

Laura -- The stories kids tell can be a real hoot. They see things from such a different perspective.

Manzanita -- The tradition of generational lore is a long one and is so important to preserving our culture. Probably equal in importance and often more true than what the history books say.

Teresa -- I'm sure your family has some wonderful stories. You carry on the tradition.

Lee

Karen Lange said...

Storytelling is a gift! Your family heritage gave you a wonderful treasure!

Have a great weekend!

Geoff Maritz said...

Hi Lee. TV didn't come to South Africa until 1976 so I grew up with radio. I still remember some of the serial names like "Mark Saxon and sir Gay in 'No Place to hide'" and "The creaking door".
My children, when growing up, also loved to sit close to daddy while I read them a story. I think it builds a special kind of bond that is lacking nowadays. Funny you should write about this at this moment, some of the older crew members at work were discussing this very same subject just a few days ago. Nice one, Geoff.

carolsnotebook said...

I wish I could tell a story. I've read with my daughter just about every evening since she was born and still do, even though she's 11, but I never developed the knack of telling a story. That's a great memory and a great thing to carry on with your own kids.

Theresa Milstein said...

Those are such nice memories you've shared. I was read to, but no stories were made up and told to be by my parents or grandparents. Now I write stories and read them aloud to my children but I haven't made up a story in a long, long time.

You may have inspired me!

notesfromnadir said...

It's a gift to be able to TELL a story & you're lucky you inherited that ability.

Arlee Bird said...

Karen -- More parents should be telling their kids stories. Give them some quality time.

Geoff -- I think kids need that bonding. So many people feel alienated in today's world because they probably didn't or don't have those close bonds with others.

Carol -- I would differ with in that I think you tell some great stories on your blog. And the stories I told my kids weren't usually anything elaborate, but just simple accounts of things I did when I was younger, with some literary enhancements to make them more interesting.

Theresa--Like many of us, kids like to hear about the life experiences of others. What was it like when you were a kid or what was something that scared you are questions kids like to hear about. It can be as simple as describing a trip to the grocery story and maybe adding some embellishments to widen eyes.

Lisa from Nadir -- I think I have a lot of blog visitors who are pretty darn good story tellers--like you, for instance.

Lee

Rosalind Adam said...

That must have been magical. My family were not story tellers but Mum always read me either a story or a poem. My favourite poems were from A. A. Milne's When We Were Five. Great memories. I always read to my kids too and now my son reads to his son. Story time, even if it's read from a book, is a very special time.

Madeleine said...

Awh cute story Lee :O)

Helen Ginger said...

Aww, Arlee, that last line was so sweet. I don't remember my mother telling stories, so I can't say my storytelling came from her. But I do remember weaving my own stories at a young age.

GigglesandGuns said...

In our family it was an aunt with the gift of storytelling, even the grownups would sit to listen.

Bish Denham said...

How wonderful that your family stories have been passed down, passed on. There were no real story tellers in my family (I seem to be the main one) but my parents did tell my sister and me about their lives growing up and many of their exploits. I hold them dear to my heart.

Emilee said...

I used to love hearing yours and grandma's stories. I could hear them over and over.

Arlee Bird said...

Rosalind -- You are right. Reading to kids is a special time.

Madeleine -- Thanks!

Helen --I've always enjoyed telling stories as well. I think imaginary play and making up stories is an integral part of a healthy childhood.

G & G -- A good story teller can engage young and old alike.

Bish -- Those simple tales of growing up can be as interesting as any adventure story when told well.

Emilee -- And I used to tell the same stories over and over. I like telling them as much as you girls liked to listen to them.

Lee

becca said...

my grandma use to tell me the best stories

Penned Pebbles said...

How wonderful for you to have had such a special gift in your mother and grandmother. And what a joy that you can delight others with stories as well.

Suze said...

'my mother had a special magic of telling a good story. That's probably what has been the biggest influence in my desire to tell stories.'

I can't tell you how much I love this.

And thank you so much, Lee, for your excellent comment on my granddad's photo. I really liked it.

-Suze

Jules said...

I think you inherited that bit from your mother and you know story telling is a southern trait! :)

Thank you for sticking with me in MIA period, it means a lot to have blog friends like you.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Rhonda @Laugh Quotes said...

There is something so magical about a story told well that the memories linger for so many year.

Anita said...

I see that I'm not the only one who did not experience "story time" as a child; although, I did hear lots of spontaneous stories about the lives of my parents and other relatives.

No one seemed to have the fiction thing going, and to this day, telling ficticious stories is not my talent either.

Thank God for all of you who do have that ability and who put it in books for our reading pleasure!

What a nice heritage your parents and grandparents have given you; and that you've given to your kids.

Diana said...

I used to dread when my children and grandchildren would ask me to tell them a story!! I guess I was o.k. at it or they wouldn't have kept asking but I think I was just too darn lazy to make stuff up!
This seems strange thinking about it now as I am far from a lazy person.
Does this mean I have a lazy brain!??
Love Di ♥

Arlee Bird said...

Becca -- Our grandma's came from an era where more stories were told generationally.

Petra -- Many have stories to tell, but nowadays not many have time to hear them except for gossip.

Suze -- In most cases family is what makes us who we are.

Jules -- I have some friends in Tennessee who can tell great stories. Story telling is a strong Southern trait, but people all over have their own special stories. Hope things are well with you.

Rhonda -- It's an authors ultimate goal I guess.

Anita -- I think the spontaneous stories are the best ones. After all as they say, truth is stranger than fiction--and often more interesting.

Diana -- Why feel the need to make things up when you can draw upon your own life experiences. You've told some great stories on your blog pages.

Lee

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee .. I remember happy times with my parents reading and singing together or telling stories .. and then I became entranced in reading .. lovely ways to be brought up. Loved hearing about your parents' stories .. thanks - Hilary

fishyfacedesigns said...

Lee,
Your blog is such a special place, thank you for sharing wonderful stories and memories with us... Your mother sounds so wonderful, she gave you a super gift!
take care,
Lisa

Karen Peterson said...

My mom used to tell fantastic stories when we were little. It wasn't until years later that I discovered her stories weren't exactly original. But that didn't make them any less special.

My nephew is 6 and he's starting to ask for stories. It's so much fun to indulge him.

Arlee Bird said...

Hilary -- It's so nice when families entertain themselves and don't rely on television or other means to do it.

Lisa FFD -- My mother is pretty special with wonderful stories to tell. Thanks for stopping.

Karen -- Kids aren't all that picky when it comes to hearing stories. Mostly I think they like that personal attention.

Lee

SBJones said...

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend about what makes a book good in our opinion. We rambled off a lot of things like action, romance, character growth and even things like editing, syntax.

The bit we focused on though was story telling. You can have the greatest story in the world, but if you tell it poorly, no one will want to hear/read it.

Linda H. said...

I wish I could say the same. I guess that is why I became such an avid reader. I could then pick the stories I wanted to hear.

Sadly, I still don't know much about my family history and certainly not silly tales.

I loved this post. I tell my daughter stories all the time. Now she likes to tell me stories (mostly crazy stories from school).

Durga Nannapaneni said...

Cute and lovely, Am glad I found this!!

-Ur new follower
http://ahappycampersblog.blogspot.com/

Brianna said...

I loved to hear my grandmother tell stories of her past and now I love to hear my mom and dad.

It's so good to know where your talent comes from!