Posted on | March 16, 2015 | 3 Comments
For as long as I can remember, I have collected stories. I suppose it’s part of what makes me, well… me. I collect the bits and pieces of other people’s lives and I store them in my heart and I take them out and examine them piece by piece as though they were gifts; because in a way, they are. The stories people tell you about themselves and their lives are tiny gifts offered as a way to say ‘Here. Know me.”
My father’s mother is a teller of stories. She has always told stories in a way that makes you laugh and picture yourself right there beside her, waking up on a cold winter morning to the stocking on the end of the bed. For a while, she told many stories, but as the years have passed, she’s told the same stories, each one meticulously groomed and shared like little charms on the bracelet of her life. There’s the story of her brother being pushed through the mud, the story of her sister taking off a shoe and beating her boyfriend and the girl she found him with through the window of a car. There’s the story of my father locking the car doors and sliding back and forth on the back seat to keep her from getting him out at the doctor’s office, the story of my father wearing the aviator cap, the story of my father playing in the fireplace, and crying over the Poky Little Puppy not getting his supper.
There are, sadly, very few stories of just my grandmother. She’s always been the sort of person who tells you about others, leaving her own childhood painted in a soft watercolor of surrounding people. But there are stories of her in the stories she tells of others… just as there are with all of us. There are pieces of her woven into what she chooses to tell us about the people she has loved, about the things she has seen. She presses her love of stubbornness, her admiration of the joy of children into the stories of my great uncle, and her pride in the gumption and zero tolerance in the stories of her sister. She weaves a blanket of love through her stories of my father… of the love of his tender spirit, the love of his silliness as a boy, and the reminder to us and perhaps to him that those are the pieces of him she still loves the best. She repeats the stories as though to burn them in our memories, to push and prod and sear on our hearts the parts of her she is scared she’ll lose.
This past weekend, I sat beside her with my sister and we encouraged her to tell those stories again and again, letting her smile with the memory of her children, the memory of her brothers and sisters. We encouraged her to remind us of what is most important about her life as it trickles out the corners of her eyes and down the sides of her cheeks. And as we stood to leave, she grabbed my hand with a soft ferocity and pressed it to her heart.
“Do you know my stories,” her hoarse voice questioned, and I told her I did. And then with tears in her eyes, she asked a promise of me that I willingly gave. “Will you raise that boy of yours to know my stories?”
I promised I would. I promise I will. Because even when the light is dying, the memories of it and the stories it holds are seared on the softest underside of our eyes and hearts. And the storied seeds that my grandmother has passed to me, will be tended and treasured and it’s fruits will be carefully passed along in the thread and fiber of my own collected stories.