The women in my family are the storytellers.
I remember lazy summer afternoons perched on the counter in my grandmother’s kitchen, making chocolate chip cookies (well, she was making, I was sampling) while she shared tales of growing up in southern California. She talked of meeting Shirley Temple on the beach one day and of being dismissed from school to “smudge” the orange groves during a cold snap. She talked about meeting my grandfather for the first time and told me how she was listening to the radio when the news came over the airwaves about Pearl Harbor.
“I didn’t give a hoot about the news,” she told me time and again. “I was too busy arguing with my mother about whether I was old enough to marry your grandfather.”
My other grandmother’s stories were set in Texas, where I grew up, but seemed no less exotic to me. She talked about attending college at Baylor, where dancing was prohibited and women weren’t allowed to wear pants.
I listened to a lot of stories as a kid, but one that made a particularly strong impression came from my mother. She was in summer school at the University of Texas when she was walking down the street and the woman next to her was hit by a sniper’s bullet. The gunman, the infamous Charles Whitman, killed sixteen people on that sweltering summer day.
I’ve carried that story with me for years, and I think about it often… the whole idea of “what if?” It’s a theme that sticks with me. In fact, my mom’s story planted the seed for my next novel. I dedicated the book to my mother (a first for me). I don’t know how she’ll react, but I hope she’ll take it as a thank you for opening up about something that isn’t easy to talk about. I’m glad she did, because I feel like it’s part of her experience, and indirectly, part of me, too.
Repeating stories is one of our family pastimes. And it’s not just the dramatic stuff … sometimes the mundane ones come up over and over. My kids love to listen to my mother’s tales, especially the ones involving me. “Tell us about the time Mommy got in trouble for taking the car!”
What stories does your family pass down the line? Now that I’m a mom myself, I realize how important it is to share these things, so that our kids know about the people and events and lives that came before them.
I hope you have a good Mother’s Day weekend. I hope you get to be with family. I plan to hang out with mine and enjoy what I hope will be a relaxing day, free of chores and distractions. And while we’re together, I’m going to point my kids to the grandparents in the room and urge them to go listen to the stories they have to tell.
In honor of Mother’s Day and all those moms who love to read, I’m giving away a $25 giftcard to Barnes & Noble and a signed cover flat for SNAPPED, my upcoming book that is dedicated to my mother. Just leave a comment for a chance to win!