Saturday, June 6

a storyteller

After what seemed like months and years of papers, deadlines, meetings, appointments, counseling, counseling others, grades, and critiques, I decided it was time for a visit to The Ranch.  This place in the middle of nowhere--close enough, anyway--without cell service, wi-fi, tweets, news, and schedules.  Also after weeks and months of examining myself, discovering what it means to be me, and what that means for my marriage, family, career, and life, I decided a little unplugging was due.

What I hadn't planned on was truly meeting my grandmother.  A woman of many years and cattle, she has grown accustomed to speaking to the four-legged rather than the two, which means lots of hollers, shouts, quick, abrupt noises, and gruff verbs and adjectives thrown about.  However, I heard something new.

My grandmother is a storyteller.

When she speaks, though much more quietly and reserved these days, she speaks in time periods long ago, where she finds herself recalling a birthday, a day at school, a night with her baby, adulthood shenanigans, and so on.  Rather than just stating the lesson she is teaching or verbalizing the glimpse of yesterday she's had, she tells you the story.

One involved her baby, the youngest--and naughtiest--of five.  He was acting out in a store and she sat on him, simply to get him to stop.  The school-arranged visit to the orphanage hours later scared him out of ever having another tantrum again, for fear my grandmother would ship him right off (which, by the way, she might have).  The story is not without small details of the storefront, the toy he wanted, or the place where she wrangled him to the ground.  Details about the tone of voices, the words used, and her own fears of how other mothers were thinking of her are also there.

There is a story about her mother and her sister, about the house she grew up in, about the simple meals she used to have.  There is another about my father, and how wonderful he is at giving gifts.  She says, "I would take each boy out to the store after school one, individually, and they would choose gifts for their brothers, you see.  I wanted them to know a budget, to know planning for gifts, and to pick out gifts for other people. Your dad, I was so impressed, has always been the one to buy thoughtful gifts."  Yep, he sure has. In fact, I'd like to think he's given some of that to me.

I learned a great deal in a few days, about who my grandma is, where she's been, and what's important to her.  I see things I have because of her--my hands, a shorter body, the will to be a woman in this world, and, now, a deep love of stories.  And that is almost as valuable as the words she gives as gifts to the past and rich foundation of our family.

My grandmother is a great storyteller.


If you want to get to know someone, you need to know their story. Their life is a story. It, too, has a past and a future. It, too, unfolds in a series of scenes over the course of time. Why is Grandfather so silent? Why does he drink too much? Well, let me tell you. There was a terrible battle in World War II, in the South Pacific, on an island called Okinawa. Tens of thousands of American men died or were wounded there; some of them were your grandfather's best friends. He was there, too, and saw things he has never been able to forget.

-Ransomed Heart,

No comments:

Post a Comment