Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: The Storyfathers

There are people who are related to you by blood - and those relations are important.  But there are also those people who are related to you by the stories they tell, stories that move you, stick with you, and change you.

My father taught at Colorado College in the chemistry department.  When I was little, there were three other professors who often came to dinner and cherry pie at our house.  None of them teach there anymore.  But the stories they told about their incredibly different childhoods gave me insight and perspective that changed my world.  In my head, they are my storyfathers - my early teachers in the art of agenda-free, moral-free, relaxed, and fun-filled storytelling.

Storyfather One - a white religious studies professor from Georgia.  His stories were full of cottonmouth snakes and Baptists.  I particularly remember a tragic story of his disillusionment when a tent revivalist couldn't help an ill friend.

Storyfather Two - a hispanic Chicano studies professor who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley.  His stories were full of farming and struggle.

Storyfather Three - an African-American literature professor who grew up in the rural South, in a house without electricity or plumbing.  His stories were about being a young man in the middle of a changing culture, and the challenges he faced.

Storyfather Four - my dad, who grew up in Oregon, whose stories were full of my grandmother's antics, car repair, and family.  I remember his story of the whole 1st grade going to his friend Steve's house to see the first TV in town.

Storymother - my mom, who also grew up in Oregon, on a farm with limited resources.  Her stories were full of goats, walnut trees, and architecture.  I remember her story of getting up early in the morning to take Russian lessons through the radio, so they would be ready for the invasion.

While we watched and listened, they would sit and eat pie and talk back and forth for hours.  They could remember the moment they learned to read, the moment they heard about Kennedy's assassination, the moment of the moon landing.  They shared huge events and little ones, and through them, my sister and I came to understand the differences in their histories, the diversity that made up the United States for all of them.

As storytellers, you may not know which of your stories are good and eternal and which are temporary, or only valuable to you.  You may not know their significance, but you owe it to the children around you to give them a chance to find out.  Talk more, talk often, risk being dull or vulnerable or cliched.  You never know which story will expand their world.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! Makes me miss those dinners with our "uncles". Thanks for reminding me of those great dinners.