Monday, February 15, 2010

Stories to Tell

There was no place I'd have rather been, sitting at the dining table with two old gents, one seventy, the other sixty-five. I was certain of that going in.

Conversation started simple enough: jokes from the one who showed up to our beans and cornbread with his overalls on; the other explaining with vim the difference between a bowl of beans and soup.

But it really became so, that I'd not trade my spot to anybody, when talk took a turn. When their memories sparked at one word, maybe two, and the past was revived. Right there in front of me, the stories lived.

They were stories from forty and fifty years ago, somehow relevant -- if only because recollection stirred -- as we sat together. I heard about days when these men were just past boyhood, working like horses, starting families. When their lives were touched by good people or bad crime. When they had fears and worries, or knew they would be okay. I heard about the days they lived, before life now.

As my belly filled with the old-timey meal, my ears listened. My heart engaged. And my writer's soul, too, was fed. I took in times gone by, the human condition as it spanned decades, insignificant little details that work together to create important history.

They are stories that will live on, because I've tucked them away. Because I'm a writer, yes, and some of this stuff may end up in my fiction someday. They are stories to tell. But, too, I've tucked them away because they came from my family, and they are my history.

They've become, in a way, my stories to tell.


This post is dedicated to my dad and uncle Bob, these two old gents. Life-livers and storytellers, they are. Love you both.
And thanks, too, to my mom for the old-timey meal...

25 comments:

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Old-timey meal--so good. I realized just the other day that one part of the novel I'm editing is from something I encountered a friend's home when we were in elementary school.

Material comes from everywhere.

Beautiful piece.
~ Wendy

Melanie Avila said...

What a wonderful opportunity. I still cherish the stories my grandfather told me when I was little.

Rebecca Nazar said...

Being shy Maine Yankees, it was like pulling teeth to get my 'grand' relations to spill forth. What little I gleaned is very precious indeed.

She Writes said...

Lovely tribute to them!

Jill said...

Great post! I love when "old-timers" start reliving the past. What a wealth of stories!

Angie Muresan said...

Isn't it interesting how insignificant moments become part of our history? I love this post, Janna. I can't wait until I read your stories.

Sharla said...

Love it love it love it! Cherish it girl, that is some precious stuff. And you wrote that like it was a story. Very cool! I miss my dad's stories, and my daughter got even more of them and I wish she had written them down because she's forgetting them now. Write them down...even if not to use now.

Jen said...

It pays to sit and listen... get all the good information first hand, from the people who experienced it. Makes me feel alive and inspired :)

patti said...

Oh, Jannnnnnna,
this tightened my throat to think of Aunt Gayle and Uncle Smitty and Charlie...The Qualls clan, who weathered the Dust Bowl and the Depression and always told the best stories.

May they bless you during hard times and find their way to paper!!

Love this blog,
Patti

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Wonderful story Janna! Makes me miss the times around my rellys tables way back when. I think that kind of storytelling is in danger of becoming a lost art. Thanks a lot electronic age!

Cassandra Frear said...

I love moments like this -- when I can learn from someone's story. I love stories that have been lived by real people. It's such a delight to me.

thedomesticfringe said...

I love listening to people tell their stories. Sounds like you had a special time.

-FringeGirl

Melissa Marsh said...

One of my favorite times as a kid (and young adult) was when my great uncles, my dad and his brother, and my grandfather used to get together for brandings. After they were done, they'd come in for lunch and start telling stories. Oh, how we laughed. They are such precious moments.

I'm so glad you were able to share in those stories, Janna. :-)

Karen said...

A beautiful post. A good reminder to me when I'm with my parents. Thanks.

Carol J. Garvin said...

My DH and I are hitting those decades where we'll qualify as "old folks" and that's scary!! Our family members haven't been asking us to share memories of the olden days yet, maybe because I'm the one still doing the asking and writing.

My father-in-law died many years ago, but we still marvel at the changes in technology he experienced. He lived in a small prairie community and often rode a horse to get around. He told us he saw the first car drive into his town, and years later watched via the marvel of television as the first man walked on the moon. What a life span! Too bad he never wrote about it, but I'm glad he shared his memories verbally.

Terri Tiffany said...

Awww. This was so good! I love hearing all the old stories. I do that now in my new job!

Jessica said...

Oh yes! I LOVE hearing stories from older generations. So fun and wonderful. Even the sad ones. They just make me think and realize things.
Good post Janna!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

This is great!

I had the blessing of sitting at a table listening to stories of lives well lived tonight. Such an incredible gift!

septembermom said...

Beautiful tribute to those great storytellers! I agree that there is a rich harvest awaiting when older generations begin to share their stories.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oh, I loved this post.

One of the things I miss the most is the ability to sit with uncles and/or aunts and listen to their stories - for various reasons, it isn't possible :-(

Maybe I should head to a local diner and hang out - listen, engage...

BUt, now I really wants some beans and cornbread!

lovely post.

Deb Shucka said...

What a miracle of an experience you had. I'm so glad you shared it with us, and look forward to finding their stories in your books someday.

Amy said...

Loved this post. It reminds me of my nursing days, and one of my most favorite of nursing duties--being a good listener, especially to older folks who enjoyed reminiscing about their younger days. Rich stuff in there.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Thanks for sharing your feast with the rest of us. Funny, I've got white beans & ham recipe up today. :)

Journaling Woman said...

Janna,
Life is complete with a day like that.

Jen said...

Sometimes, I think those old family stories are really the best.

What a great post, and food for thought here. :)