I love a good story. Better yet, I love a good storyteller — someone who can tell a story so well, so real that they make you believe you were there right in the middle of it all.
My grandmother was a great storyteller. Even at a very young age, I appreciated the way she would relay stories to me.
Crawling up into her lap early in the morning, after everyone else had gone to school or work, she’d wrap her fluffy bathrobe around me, and we’d chat. There was no TV interference, no radio blaring in the background. Computers hadn’t yet been thought of, and the telephone seldom rang. It was just Grandma and me — and a strong cup of coffee that she sipped on intermittently.
Those early morning rendezvous were nearly 50 years ago, but I still remember them. I loved to hear about Grandma’s life when she was a little girl, a teenager and before she married my grandfather ... And quite frankly, I have to believe she enjoyed reminiscing. Even though I was a little kid, I was all ears, and wow ... could she tell a story.
To this day, I have no idea whether Grandma’s stories were true or not. I never questioned the authenticity of her words. To a little girl who worshiped her grandmother, I just assumed her words were gospel.
Grandma would recite stories of long ago. She added colorful details of days gone by and told me stories of family members I would never know. I learned of great-grandparents, great-aunts, great-uncles, and second and third cousins that started out only as names, but after countless stories, they became real relatives.
Grandma could tell a story so vividly that I could almost feel the wind on my face as she relayed stories of playing with her siblings. I could nearly smell the sweet and spicy cookies her mother (my great-grandmother) used to make at Christmas time, and I could hear Grandma’s youthful squeals as she and her sister opened the few gifts that were under their long ago Christmas tree. I would find myself looking at my own arm as she told about a feisty kitten that had scratched her and drew a few drops of blood on her little girl arm.
Back then, my grandmother didn’t believe in gearing her stories to the ears of a little child. In other words, not all the stories were filled with sunshine and lollipops. Instead, Grandma’s coffee-tainted breath spit out stories of not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly. I know my eyes had to be the size of saucers as she told about some of the characters that had crossed her path throughout the years. Appropriate for a child? Perhaps not. But I was still enthralled with her stories, and I have to believe there was some kind of lesson to be learned along the way.
Grandma’s stories were better than any TV program I could have watched. I could smell the gasoline the stranger siphoned out of her father’s old automobile. I could see the gypsies who drove their wagon into her parents’ yard, and I could see the fear in her mother’s eyes as she shooed her children inside the house. I could feel my own heart break as she told of relatives who died long before I was ever born, and I tasted the salt in Grandma’s tears as she relayed moments in her life that had caused those tears to fall.
As I look back, Grandma’s storytelling moments are some of my most favorite, for she took me to a place in time I would have otherwise never known. Was she the greatest storyteller in the world? She was to me, and that’s all that matters.
As 2014 begins, I hope you’ll take some time to tell some stories to the younger members of your family. Turn off the TV, make them lay down their cell phones and tell some stories of the chapters of your life. I guarantee that someday, those stories will become a bestseller in their own minds.
BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.