December 13, 2013

Whose Story is it Anyway?

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about stories. I share stories of my own, and reflect on stories I have been told over the years. I pay homage to storytellers whose lives have impacted mine, whether I've met them or not.

A thought struck me the other day about just why it is I put so much effort into telling stories. I think stories are so important because they have a life force all their own.

Consider this...don't you get just a little excited when you hear the words "Once upon a time" and know that a story will follow them?

Another reason stories come alive is because they are points of connection. When we have shared experiences with other people, it forever links us to them. And when we get back together after months or sometimes years and recollect, it brings the connection to life.

Because stories are a living thing, I think it is a great honor for someone to allow you to tell his story. That's why I would never want to tell any story that wasn't mine to share. Mind you, I tell lots of stories about other people on Southern Belle Simple, particularly my grandparents. Some are living and some have gone on, but when I tell their stories it's a way to honor them. And I like to think the ones who are no longer with us would give me their blessing to recount their adventures so the next generations can know them.

[Sidenote: I'm convinced that if my grandpa (an old timey preacher) had lived into more modern times, he'd be all over YouTube and the web. He was a great storyteller plus he had star quality.]

Some stories are hard to believe. Like the one about my grandma, whose childhood pet was a crow that came to wait for the bus to drop her off each day after school. But didn't like the Watkins salesman.

Some stories make me laugh. Like the one where my five-year old self disobeyed my uncle and kicked the ashtray in his truck, dumping out all the ashes and cigarette butts on the floorboard (and soiling my white fringed cowboy boots).

Some stories make my cry in a good way. Like the one about my mom working in a drugstore when I was a baby and trying so hard to make ends meet and create a wonderful life for me (she did, by the way).

Some stories make me ache on the inside. Like the one about my grandpa when he was a little boy having to ride on a train from Michigan to Tennessee with the body of his baby sister in a little casket being brought home to bury.

But every story is a part of me and the people who make up my life.

If we never tell the stories, entire parts of our lives will remain a mystery swallowed up by the past. I mourn the loss of stories I never got a chance to hear.

As a good southerner, I know that certain things are always better left unsaid, but I know there are plenty of good stories left to tell.

I've said this before, but it warrants repeating: the best way we can honor the ones who matter to us is by telling their stories. And if they are still around to tell the stories themselves, we can honor them by listening.