It’s November and our theme for the month is, of course, Thankfulness & Gratitude. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, think about the things you’re grateful for.
My family consists of a little bit of everything…it’s like a fabulous stew made with only the best ingredients. We, like a great stew, have marinated. We have marinated in each others lives, seasoned with a multitude of beliefs, religions and passions. We are related by birth and marriage, whether by blood, step or as in-laws. It is that seasoning that gives us flavor. I am grateful for this exquisite flavor that reveals itself through the storytellers in my family and all their wonderfully told stories.
For the most part, we’re a matriarchal family. Let’s face it – most of us are the cruise directors of the family. We’re the planners, the statisticians, the keepers of the financial purse strings. In my family, we are also the keeper of the stories. The first keeper was Nana – my grandmother on my dad’s side. Not only did she recount the stories of her youth in:
- Her hurt and anger at her brother because she had raised a pig that was the runt of the litter – dressing it up and walking it in a baby carriage – and coming home one day from school found that her older brother had traded her pet pig for a wheelbarrow. (I still think she’s the original Fern from “Charlotte’s Web.”)
- Fashioning a car key out of tin can and stealing the family car with her cousin because her father refused to teach her to drive, and dammit, she was going to learn to drive.
- Breaking into a an elderly, hard-of-hearing woman’s home just to see what the house was like and then having to sit on her date’s lap on the ride home after she had wet her pants because the elderly woman had put a shotgun into the dark Michigan night and pulled the trigger.
But also the stories of her adult life:
- The summer that her husband – a prominent attorney and my dad’s dad – drowned when my dad was 12, and then they waited for days and days as the authorities searched for his body…all played out on the front pages of the newspapers.
- Working during WWII at the ration board and slipping extra ration cards to those people and families that needed extra help (or were friends.
- Getting married for a second time and doing it in NY at the “Little Church Around the Corner” because he was Catholic, she wasn’t and she refused to convert so they couldn’t be married in a Catholic church.
Nana told us stories of her life, her parents lives, her cousins, her siblings. She recounted life on the farm, life moving to the city, her first marriage, the birth of my dad, the adoption of my aunt, so many stories that I could go on and on.
My maternal grandma told stories of her family; of life on the farm in the Heartland; of climbing down into the root cellar to escape the summer heat; to escape tornadoes that wrapped barbed wire fencing around the pigs unfortunate enough to be caught in the storm; of getting married and moving to the north.
My dad told stories about the friends he had had since kindergarten; about leaving one in a chemistry class without his friend knowing what the experiment was and watching with glee from the hall as the friend was admonished in front of the class and told “then for heavens sake, turn off your bunsen burner until you know what’s going on!”; about the piece of metal that flew into his right eye from a stake he was pounding in the ground to secure his horse Barney – and the archaic “surgery” that extracted the steel from his eye and blinded him in the process.
Mom tells stories of her escapades with, and about, her brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles; how her oldest brother ran away from home – mostly because he wanted an adventure, and her youngest brother went with him, climbing down from HER window; her oldest brother hitch-hiking across the country – with their parents blessing – at the age of 13 or 14 to visit relatives on the west coast; of traveling in the south during a time that shames our country.
There are stories about the relative (no names mentioned in this one, though) who got locked out of a hotel room…butt-ass naked…and had to wait behind a chair until help from the desk arrived. Stories from our individual pasts, stories from our familial pasts. There are stories everywhere and in everything we do.
Our stories are always told at family gatherings – usually around the bar. Stories have passed from grandparents, to parents, to children; between brothers, sisters, cousins, and step parents. It is in those stories that we are alive, bound together, remembered, until the end of time. We may have heard the stories a thousand times, but our oral tradition for passing on family history is alive and well.
You’ve heard us say at middleSage that “Everybody’s Got a Story!” I do, you do, everybody has a least one good story that needs to be shared. Our stories can be silly, heartwarming, heart wrenching, funny, morose…you name it. In my case, I’ve got quite an arsenal of stories because it’s genetic…I come from, and am part of, a whole bunch of storytellers who can take the incidents in life and turn them into an informative story, a lesson or just plain entertainment. For this silly, creative and crazy group of storytellers that are my family, I am profoundly grateful.
What are YOU thankful for? Have you expressed your gratitude to those people or for those things? Tell us YOUR story about gratitude and thankfulness….