Telling Stories

I grew up in a family of widely acclaimed storytellers—my grandfather the patriarch to a brood of loud, hand-flailing, comedians and dramatists. Growing up I hungrily listened to stories about high school romances, crazy neighbors, and camp adventures. I’d listen to the same stories again and again, and then I’d ask for more. Everyone did.

My grandfather’s stories about Banner and Horse Spot (horses, my friends, icons of childhood) transported me to the Alabama of his youth, a place far away from my suburban home.

My mom’s stories of flirtation and heartbreak pulled me through the difficulties of teen love.

My uncle’s stories made me laugh.

I remember a friend telling my mom when I was in high school, “Lois, why does everything amazing happen to you?” That isn’t the case, of course. The reality is that she just tells the story, whether it’s amazing or ordinary, in such a way as to MAKE it amazing.

I noticed, somewhere around the seventh grade, that although I had the desire to learn and practice the family trade, I had no gift for it. The pressure of telling a story in the moment, the spontaneity, I couldn’t handle it. When all eyes turned to me, I flopped.

My cousin Timmy seems to have the gift. And my cousin Josh, an amateur filmmaker. And, I suppose, I have a variation of the gift, since you’re reading this story and haven’t moved on…

Anyway, I’m no oral storyteller. And when I look at my beautiful daughters, I wish wish wish I was.

***

Yesterday I was getting ready for father’s day and thinking about what makes Justin a good father and, in a moment of clarity, I realized what I love (maybe most) about Eve and London’s Dad.

He is a storyteller.

He tells stories about tigers and about horses and about God. He takes London on adventures with her best friend Redick into jungles and under the sea. He teaches the girls about relationships, joy, pain, truth, and conflict without them ever tasting the medicine in the pudding.

His eyes get big. His arms wave. The girls bounce and giggle. He roars.

When I watch London and Eve, LOVING it all, I remember jumping on my grandfather’s bed, galloping across a field of wildflowers on the back of my trusty steed Horse Spot. And I remember how good it felt to live with a sense of plot, to transform the ordinary into the amazing, to be swept away by a story.

And when I remember all of that, I praise God for Justin—for the fact that my daughters will grow up, just as I did, rooted in stories.