My son tells stories with his whole body. He gets a look when he is telling one. He raises his bushy eyebrows, looks down the tip of his nose, and launches in exuberantly. He has already developed a sense of timing, inflection for emphasis, and sense of humor. He approaches a story wide-eyed. He even uses his hands to talk the story out and make it bigger. At age four he can spin a yarn. He can already captivate attention. My son is mastering the craft of oral storytelling. I use the term “craft” because a good story is a work of art.
A good story evokes laughter, heartache, or both on the turn of a dime.
Just take a minute and think about the storytellers in your own family. Was it your grandma, papaw, maybe a crazy uncle, or wild aunt? I am not talking about bedtime stories or something you can read. I am talking about those special stories from your family or the made-up ones that only a few people you know can recollect—the ones you WISH someone had written down.
In my family, there was my mamma, daddy, brother, uncles, aunts, cousins, and me.
I had SO MANY storytellers and story-makers in my family that we almost fought for air when we all got together. My mamma was both storyteller and story-maker. She was the best and in fact made a lifestyle of it. She even had four identities when she passed. Once she told me a story that I thought was about her childhood but decades later, when I was in college, I realized that her childhood story was really an adaptation she made of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” She just changed the point of view to a child’s. She even adapted the book Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt to be her own story, which she later used to build relationships and grift people out of their money. She was a real troubadour! I see her when my son tells a story and, for a minute, I know that fire is still alive.
She passed it down to me and I have passed it to him.
I try to keep the stories I share with him age-appropriate and focused on a lesson of sorts. I have shared with him about the time my daddy caught a bag full of rattle snakes, tied ’em up in a pilla’ case, placed them in the floor-board of his car, and tricked my granddaddy into the back seat of his VW bug for a “ride.” Also, the one about the time my daddy went hiking in the Smoky Mountains with his Boy Scout troop, how his Scout leader was struck by lightning, and the daring rescue that ensued. Lesson learned: Safety first!
A few of my stories are on the verge of inappropriate, but sure do make him laugh. Like the when my Uncle Randy ate a whole box of dog biscuits. Also, the time Uncle Randy’s pet skunk (named Dolly Parton for her big haired-bushy tail) was stolen from the trailer park. It ended up in the local newspaper and was eventually returned. I am saving the one about when he drove up in the yard in his Mustang. Also, the stories about how he got fired from various jobs. I will wait ’til my son is older on those.
Some of my stories are meant to be inspirational.
I share some stories about college (I was a pretty good kid–aside from the times I ran around campus naked as leader of the “Nature Society”). I share mostly about the trips I have made to India, Bali, Japan, and Mexico. They always end with “Maybe one day you can travel the world. Where would you go?” My point in telling him these stories is to encourage. More stories. More adventures. More imagination. Not to mention, the ability to tell a good story can influence his ability to be a strong leader, better communicator and increase his happiness. There is science on that. You can look it up.
My point in writing this post is to encourage.
More sharing. Story telling is one of the most intimate ways to connect. My call to you, reader, is tell them your stories—whatever they are. Borrow a few (like my mamma did) and make them your own. Don’t for a minute think “someone should write that down.” That ain’t gonna happen! I know as a parent that time can escape and all the stories don’t get written down.
To get a better idea of the kind of story telling I am talking about you can check out:
- Snap Judgment Radio Show/Podcast
- Ray Hicks on YouTube (he was an Appalachian story-teller who mixed his story with childhood fairy tales called Jack Tales)
- Or ask your partner, parent, or passel of friends and family to share a “whopper” with you.