Today I read a friend’s post about New York’s famous “Black and White” cookies. I shared with her that my Dad used to buy giant ones when were kids, but I probably ate too many and now I get queasy just looking at them! But I started to remember how he introduced me to them. He was telling me some story of his youth and mentioned how his father would buy them for him. I didn’t understand what he was talking about because I had never heard of them. So on our next trip to the bakery, he pointed them out to me and bought a box of them home. I realized that my father ALWAYS did that. Asking my father a question would often result in a long, Cliff Huxtable-esque series of stories. But sometimes, he also took the time to show me what he was talking about. Once I saw a Ouija board in the background scenery of an old episode of Sanford & Son. I didn’t know what it was, but described it to him and asked him what it was. He not only told me – he went out and bought one for me. That was my Dad’s way. What he knew, he taught and he showed. What he wasn’t sure about, he pointed me to our big set of green and white World Book encyclopedias and encouraged me to look it up.
Of course, I have passed this down to my children. They ask me a question, I explain, then I Google it if I need to show them a picture, or enhance the story. Last summer, my children attended a funeral of an elderly family member and began asking questions about his life. For several months afterward, they would continue to ask about other family members, both living and dead. Where were they born? What did they do? How did they die? Every day, they would choose someone else to ask about and I would give them short stories about these relatives. When I shared this with their Sunday School teacher, she reminded me that this was a perfect example of storytelling. This is how family histories and oral traditions are passed down from generation to generation. I thought about this and immediately remembered how well I can recite the bulk of my maternal family history – after years of attending annual family reunions as a child and hearing our family history told each time. As a child, most of my recitation was rote, but now I can tell the story with much more depth and understanding and pass it along to my children – and even to other family members who don’t know the stories.
Let us never forget to tell stories – whether about our past, or the world around us. Our children, especially, need to shape their worldview in context of their experiences and that of their ancestors. Never ignore a question – it can often lead to great teaching moments, moments that I know I have treasured since my own childhood.
What stories are you telling?