Tell more stories…

It has occurred to me lately that maybe we aren’t as good at telling stories as we should be. What do I mean by that? I mean, in your own families there will be regularly trotted out anecdotes and stories that you are familiar with, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. How much do you really know about the lives your parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents have lived? Within those own personal histories lie some fantastic stories – and a better understanding of the people themselves. And it worries me that the only time we really seem to take the time to share these stories is when it comes to funerals and weddings. We can do better – we should be sharing this stuff as part of regular discourse.

I have no grandparents left, and I am mindful that with each loss we were also losing a whole pile of our family history. It is the same as with work I guess – when someone leaves you do some handover to make sure not too much knowledge is lost, but some inevitably is. Same goes for when we lose a family member – we also lose some stories we may never hear. Though at the same time it gives us a chance to sit and talk and remember and learn some things we never knew before. But we shouldn’t wait for the worst to happen to do that – we should be doing it regularly.

I remember learning about tribes who would sit around the fire and recount stories of their ancestors as their evening entertainment – before TVs and smart phones took over our lives. What I am recommending is not so different. Taking the chance when we are catching up with family to ask questions and find out things you didn’t know before. It will be illuminating – trust me. And maybe inspiring for those with a creative bent. The saying goes that everyone has at least one book inside them – if so, chatting to a few of your family members about their lives maybe before you came along can be even more entertaining that picking up a novel. Because it is a story that ultimately led to you and influenced in a way how you turned out. And that is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Generally in every family I find there is one person who takes on a responsibility as the Oracle – the person who collects and retains knowledge, who you turn to when you want an answer to a question. My family is no different (thank god for Aunty Cathie). But we shouldn’t let them shoulder the burden on their own, we should all take an interest. Because there will be different things we will be interested in – people like my Dad might be interested to learn about whether any of my ancestors were farmers, my sister might prick up her ears if she heard a great aunt had some involvement with the film industry. And me? I like hearing the stories about how couples met – there are some great stories out there, and for the not so closet romantics like me I love hearing that stuff. It is way better than a rom com meet cute, that’s for sure. And some of them are pretty damn cute meetings.

So, that is my message for the week – talk more, learn more, share more.  Before it is too late. You won’t regret it.


3 thoughts on “Tell more stories…

  1. The essential thing is to ask questions and write down the answers, and keep on probing. After hanging out with my Mum quite closely for almost 10 years, she continues to surprise me when she adds a new detail to a story I have heard many times before. We go for a drive, or look at photos, and often I’m whipping out my phone to phtotograph something or to make a note of the detail she is sharing.

  2. Thank you Jess for your (largely undeserved on my part) comment about my role as a family “oracle”. I totally agree with what you say (and how well you have said it!) and agree that it is important to tap into the memories of one’s parents, older siblings, aunts and uncles and older family friends to capture a fuller picture of your own family context, and what ‘went before”. This includes identifying who is who in your family’s photo albums. Make time to sit down with your Dad and LABEL people in photos who you do not know. Make time to look at other family members’ old photo albums, as they will help to fill in the gaps in your knowledge of grandparents and other ancestors who have passed on!

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