I come from a long line of Storytellers. Â If I asked my mother what day of the week Christmas fell on this year, Â her answer might take a few minutes as she reckoned it against the events ofÂ Â last year.
â€œIt was on a Wednesday last year, I know that, because Â I remember thinking I wouldnâ€™t have to iron that week, Wednesday being my ironing day. Â And I know it was last year because thatâ€™s when Â Emmaâ€™s grandbabby was born. Â Poor little tyke Â had to have an operation of some kind. Â I forget now. Â Had to be in the hospital for several daysÂ and Emma was just beside herself. Â I had to go over and help her with the housecleaning, she was so upset. Â She had all that company, all the way from Oklahoma, you know. Â Her two brothers, Pete and Buddy, and their wives and five kids, the oldest only seven, Â her great Aunt Mary, Â in a wheelchair, and Aunt Maryâ€™s lapdog. Â Meanest little cuss you ever saw. Â Â All of them there to see the baby. Â It was a crowd, Iâ€™ll tell you that. Â Poor little tyke. Â But Â heâ€™s OK now, youâ€™d never know anything happened. Such a pretty baby.Â And smart as a whip. Â Emmaâ€™s so proud.
So since it was Wednesday last year, it must be on a Thursday this year.”
If all of that sounds a little convoluted and tedious, you donâ€™t come from a family of Storytellers. Â Â Nothing happens in isolation to a Storyteller.
â€œThe Wreck At Sugarmill Junctionâ€ Â is inspired by an accident that happened in a small town near my home in Louisiana. The accidentÂ itself was unremarkable. Nothing much more than a slightly damaged squad car. Â What interested me was that no one who witnessed the accident saw the same thing. Not even close. Â But even more intriguingÂ was the Storytellersâ€™ Â strong sense of place. Â Each identified themselvesÂ in unique relationship toÂ theirÂ community, relating the story in theÂ context of the place and people they knew. Â The StorytellersÂ Â savored, almost seemed to taste, each detail in their narrative. Â In the longÂ years away from home, I had forgotten about the Storytellersâ€™ version of the news. Â I was spellbound, Â a child again, for a moment in time, Â hypnotized by the lyrical cadence of the speech, the escalatingÂ excitement as the story approached its apogee,Â Â the dramatic conclusion, the inevitableÂ coda, â€œOh, and another thing…”
Storytellers cannot be rushed. Â They require a peacefulÂ setting. Â A porch swing accompanied by mending and fresh lemonade is ideal, but a vegetable garden or a kitchenÂ will do. Â Storytellers do not frequent Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The story is based on fact,Â Â but details can be altered if need beÂ to make the point. Â Truth, not fact, Â isÂ what StorytellersÂ areÂ about.
And my motherâ€™s storytelling; while mixing biscuit dough, hanging clothes on the clothesline, sewing, picking peasÂ from the garden; Â in the midst of life is where I learned our family history. Â Here is where I met my ancestral heroes and villains (in Motherâ€™s opinion), learned about my grandmother’sÂ struggles in the Great Depression, and her motherâ€™s difficult life in the “War Between the States.â€ Â Here is where I formed my concept of right and wrong, good and bad, what is acceptable behavior and what is definitely not.
My mother worked hard. Â There were no vacuum cleaners, automatic dryers, microwaves or air conditioners. Â Our food came mostly Â from our gardens and stockyards, not the local A&P. Â Â My clothing did not come from Neiman Marcus, my mother sewed it on a vintage Singer sewing machine. Â She did not have the luxury of sitting down every morning with a Moleskin journal and a pretty pen to write her memoirs. Â Her stories were her memoir.
I am afraid weâ€™ve lost the art of storytelling. Â At the least, itâ€™s a dying art. In our large cities, the people, places and things around Â usÂ Â provide little more than a backdrop for our busy lives. We rush pastÂ traffic accidents with no thought for the victims, more than a little annoyed that weâ€™ll be late for whatever seems crucial at the time. Â We read in â€œbytes.â€ Â I wonder how War And PeaceÂ Â would make it in our “Haiku worldâ€. Â But thereâ€™s noÂ chance of turning back the clock, and the idea of that is no doubt better that the reality. Â But, every now and then, I just need to listen to a Storyteller.