Sharing family stories is so second nature to me that I had to reflect on the actual process. I understand that as our lives have become so busy, even those of us who continue the tradition of family stories have to sometimes fight for space to be heard.
Nowadays, for me, that space tends to be those times when generations gather around the dinner table. Make a rule to put down those smartphones at dinner!
Not all stories have to be long and elaborate. A favorite in my family is my mom’s story of how as a child she saved her baby chickens from a big, mean snake.
Another favorite is the WWII story of how Cousin Clarence had to survive on onions when he parachuted into a farming village in France. I’m fairly sure that story started as a way to get me to eat the onions in my food!
Blogger Brianna Martin, who writes about Christian parenting, encourages parents to start sharing family stories in small ways.
“Try not to fall into the trap of saying, I don’t really have any good stories to tell,” she wrote.
“Instead, find the story in the little things. If you’re really at a loss, tell the stories that your parents or grandparents told you. It’s fine if you’re just telling your kids about what your everyday life used to be like; kids can relate to everyday life!
“Telling stories that connect our lives to our kids’ lives is what it’s all about, so don’t worry about making it sensational or thrilling, it just needs to be about you (or other family members).”
For more tips on sharing family stories from the Disciple Mama Blog, read Brianna’s article Family Stories: Building Family Identity, Part 4.
Chrisy Frizzell of Duncan, Oklahoma, a member of the Facebook group Steeple People, recalls in vivid detail the setting of her father’s stories. She says that it was the ritual of his stories that made a difference, such as the scene she remembers below:
“My dad staring into whatever piece of leather he was hand tooling on the huge marble slab he had on an old surplus army desk, a thick stack of LPs on the record player playing in the background, the crackling in the background of whatever we were listening to: country blues, jazz, instrumentals.
“Daddy drawing realllll deep on his Raleigh cigarette before tapping his ash off and setting it in the ceramic ashtray my momma made him.
“He would just start talking, like in paragraphs. Then there would be long pauses, as he would hammer on his leather, smoke some more, have another glass of wine or cup of coffee, relive the memory in his mind some more, and then talk some more into the wee hours.
“I think I’m the night owl I am now in large part to how magical my Dad made some nights for me.”
A Missouri-based nonprofit organization has been working to multiply the magic of family storytelling with children in grades 4 through 8. The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration’s mission is to inspire students to discover, write, and share their family history stories.
Children are asked to interview an older adult in the family and then write about what they learned from the story. The children submit their stories, which can be illustrated, to the organization for possible publication.
According to Annie Grannie, which was founded in 2005, its website features published family histories that have taken place on six continents over a span of about 400 years.