Thirty in Thirty Day 24    My Storytelling DNA

 

I am a person who spends a great deal of time roaming around in the riotously overgrown fields of my imagination using words as my compass. I have two  large crates of spiral notebooks, legal pads and file folders filled with my scrawled stories, essays, and memories going back over three decades. For all of the years and paper that have been given to this adventure, my publishing successes can be counted on two fingers:  an essay in a small neighborhood paper and an excerpt of a novel in an online magazine.

Question: Why do I keep doing it?

Answer: Because I can’t not do it.

I have been thinking lately about the origin of this compulsion. I need only glance at my family tree to find the answer. First of all, I am a Southerner, which means that storytelling is inborn, imprinted, and ingrained on my psyche.

 

My father was a storyteller. At night he would sit on the edge of my bed and tell my brother and I fairy tales, folk tales  and true ( well,  mostly true) stories from his childhood. We had our favorites that we requested over and over. Mine was a story called “ Bozo the Button Buster” from Rootabaga  Stories by Carl Sandburg.

 

My mother did her storytelling in the car to keep us entertained on errands. She told us “Fractured Fairytales” in which she mixed all of the stories and characters together so that Red Riding Hood might go climbing up Jack’s Beanstalk to look for the Three Little Pigs. We would beg for these silly stories that I am sure she made up on the spot. Mom also made up a song about a little fox who was always going on adventures and taunting someone to try and catch him. This song had endless verses and would have us giggling and singing along on the refrain.

 

The other touchstone location for my storytelling heritage was my grandmother’s kitchen table. Every Sunday afternoon, my mother’s family would gather at Granny’s house. There were usually 20 or more people there all talking, joking, laughing and telling tales. I sat at that table week after week and soaked in the comforting stew of words and stories. Even now, I can recall the timbre of the various voices, the elongated syllables of the drawls honed in the North Georgia mountains, the unique expressions of each raconteur, and the warmth and joy that enveloped me in that cozy environment.

Most of those folks are gone. But the memories, stories, and characters reside within me along with tales of my own. Each of those deserves  to be remembered, celebrated, and shared.

So I keep writing.