|Grandpa and Grandma Phillips|
We spent yesterday at the family reunion and it made me miss my grandpa. It also made me remember this post I wrote three years ago:
We did not know our story.
We did not know that our father was the ninth child of a farming family—spoiled by sisters old enough to mother him. We did not know how hard they worked, or how hard they loved, or how they had their very own salt cave. We didn’t know that our uncle—dad’s oldest brother–had been a prisoner of war, didn’t know how the family would sit around the radio in the evenings and listen for news, or how one of the few times my grandpa spanked my father was during one such listening when he—small one that he was—would not be quiet.
|Aunt Martha and Uncle Edwin|
We didn’t know.
We didn’t know what a perfectionist our grandmother was, how she wouldn’t let her sister-in-law work on her quilts, or how she made extra money making rugs out of rags. We didn’t know how she wasted away from the cancer—how she waited too long.
We didn’t know our grandfather loved a fast car, or how he would shift the thing into neutral at the top of the hill and see just how far he could coast.
We didn’t know.
We didn’t know our roots ran tangled all over this place. We thought we were untethered…alone. No one told us otherwise.
|Me and my sibs|
When I would sink deep in sorrow, grieving our lack of story, I would hug the Bible to my chest and take heart from knowing I was part of a Bigger Story. That I have this Father–whose story started time–and these brothers and sisters and these ancestors in faith. Oh, yes, that is a rich heritage.
And it was these roots—the faith ones—that gave me courage to ask.
On my grandpa’s 98th birthday, I started asking. And people sent stories. Pages and pages–written in long hand, emailed, spoken into my tape recorder at the family reunion, or laughed over and rapidly scribbled down later.
I learned how my grandpa lost his big toe (I didn’t know he was missing one). And how my dad loved candy as a boy. I read letters from my uncle, written while he was serving our country. I poured over wedding photos and aged family snapshots.
|That’s my dad on the gate. And Old Prince.|
With each story collected, I was planted anew. My roots plowed deeper, weaving through the soil of the past until the dust quarried from my blood recognized the curling, twisting roots of these others.
Our stories are intertwined—we share the same blood.
I don’t know why, but it mattered.
And I stand here today with faith roots and family roots anchoring me deep—steeping me strong against the storms of life—and I know…
A story has to begin somewhere.
TELL YOUR STORY.
Don’t hoard it, keep it to yourself, be ashamed, or too sad to tell.Wrap arms around your sweetest, stare long into the fire and tell of your days gone by. Tell of legs strong for running, of favorite pets and bicycle ramps, tell of the lasts, but especially the firsts: first kiss, first car, first broken heart, first loss…
“People need story to organize their thoughts and make sense of things. In fact, anyone you attempt to influence already has a story. They may not be aware of the stories they are telling themselves, but they exist. Some people have stories that make them feel powerful. Others have a victim story, a story that proves your issue is not their problem, or a story that justifies their anger, frustration, anxiety, or depression. If you tell them a story that makes better sense to them you can reframe the way they organize their thoughts, the meanings they draw, and thus the actions they take. If you can convince them they are on a hero’s journey, they can begin to see obstacles as challenges, and choose behaviors more befitting a hero than a victim. Change their story and you change their behavior.” (The Story Factor)
Laura, the complicated main character of The Novelist, never leaves her house (unless you count her porch or her soiree into cyberspace) but she takes the reader into “the great unknown” (as she quotes James Scott Bell from his book Plot & Structure). A copywriter who also writes poetry, Laura is completely daunted by the task of novel writing. The reader is treated to her internal process which delightfully weaves together her troubled upbringing, a broken romance, her love of tea, and poetry…beautiful poetry.
Such a clever book that highlights some of the tried and true rules of writing fiction and then breaks them all. Wonderfully. Plus there is all that delicious name-dropping of poets and other writers.
If you’ve read L.L. Barkat before, you’ll recognize her deep and smart writing but might be surprised by her storytelling. But if you’ve read her poetry, you won’t be surprised by the sensuality in this compelling story.
A lovely portrait that does justice to the complexities of life and the human spirit.