Monday, October 10, 2011

Tell Me a Story

"Let's renamiss," I loved to suggest to my grandmother as a kid.  I thought I was very interesting using a big word like reminisce even though I couldn't pronounce it correctly.  

My grandmother was a hard working woman who smelled like bleach and Oil of Olay.  She was always cleaning, preparing food or taking care of a child.  I only saw her sit down on a few occasions.  But when she did sit, I would jump at the opportunity for a story about the olden days.
A lovely picture of me pre-braces and my serious, but loving grandma.
She would mostly tell stories about raising my mom and my aunt, but sometimes we would get a story about her own childhood or early adulthood.  Like when she baked pies for a living at a restaurant, which for some reason seemed so glamourous to me at 7 years old.  She talked about owning goats and ducks and having an outhouse, just like Laura and Mary on one of my favorite shows "Little House on the Praire" I marveled (I was even relating to television shows/pop culture as a child of course).

I soaked up every word picturing what it all must have been like and filling in the gaps with my very own fascinating details.  My grandmother was pretty vague about how she met my grandfather.  In my mind it was a prize-winning pie that she made that first got his attention.  He came back to the restaurant every day for a year and asked for "Leona's Pie" every single time.  They fell madly in love and he proposed right there in the restaurant and he said "I can't live without you, or this pie, marry me!" and they lived happily ever after.  Okay, it was fascinating to me at 7.

Today in church, one of the reverends spoke about the Hebrew term midrash.  She explained that midrash is a way of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond the religious teachings.  It fills in gaps left in the bible stories.  As the radio personality my conservative grandmother loved Paul Harvey would say it's "the rest of the story."

I am fascinated by the idea of midrash.  I was midrashing (not sure if that is a correct term, but I am using it) my grandmother's story.

Midrashing.  Storytelling.  Reminiscing.  They are all vital--it gives a person history, value, moral lessons.  I believe it is critical to helping kids create their own identity later in life.

And hell, sometimes a story can just help you feel better.
Lucy had a rough day in church today.  She was off, maybe because of allergies, but she just was not feeling the vibe when it was time for her choir to get up and sing.  Just as expected, she did not hide how she felt.  She stood up with her choir and scowled.  No singing, just angry eyes.
Blurry pic, but you get the idea of the angry eyes.

After a painful 10 minutes that felt like 30, she quickly left the room and began to cry.  "Everyone was laughing," she sobbed.  Okay, I was laughing and I have it on video.  Yikes.  I thought it was funny.  

Feeling guilty, I told her a story to feel better.  I reminisced about when I was a cheerleader freshman year of high school.  It was horrible, I was horrible.  I felt uncomfortable and out of place, so I mouthed the cheers.  Never once uttering a loud cheer.  As I told Lucy the story I started cheering in the hallway at church, not holding anything back.  "L-E-T-S-G-O, Let's Go!"  She laughed, I laughed.

I will let her midrash the rest of the story however she wants, however it helps her feel better.

Stories are important.  

"Human minds rely on stories and story architecture as the primary road map for understanding, making sense of, remembering and planning our lives--as well as the  countless experiences and narratives we encounter along the way," Kendall Haven, renowned storyteller and author.
Lucy pouring her heart into a story on the whiteboard at church.  She was making up a story and it was also helping her feel better.  Stories, even made up ones, are important.
One of my favorite movies about the power of storytelling. And yes, it is from the early nineties.

They matter.

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