Storytelling: The ancient art

Stories are powerful, captivating and enable us to transcend our immediate cares, albeit briefly.  I am a story junkie. I always a stack of books on the go at the one time. I am eager to hear the stories of those I meet amidst the pages, trusting them to help me further understand myself, others and the world around me.  Books are one of my great loves,  and I genuinely grieve when I close a book for the last time, feeling torn between wanting to know the end, but wanting it to go on forever.  However, some of the best stories of all are the ones that are a part of us, a part of our own history.


Reminiscing is one of the most beautiful forms of storytelling in my opinion.  Retelling the stories of our childhood, our school years, our courtship, our mistakes and embarrassments keep the memory, the sounds,  the smells, the emotions of these stories alive. Retelling these stories to our children is  a great gift, and one that those who have gone before us knew all too well.  Storytelling is an ancient wisdom, yet sadly, we often rely too heavily upon authors to fill the storytelling craving within us.


Imagination is the author of stories of every kind.  Imagination is not something we should leave behind as a distant memory of our childhood. Imagination can be our constant companion through life, enabling us to live creatively, laugh hysterically and escape reality for snippets of time. Imagination is also one of the most, if not THE most useful tool for parenting.  You would only have to eavesdrop at bedtime to hear the delight and the call for “just one more story Mummy!” to know that a story that comes experience or imagination is pure delight for a child.  I know my children will have fond memories of the characters and places I have told them of before bed.  We like to create stories where one person chooses a character, another a setting, and another an object. Simplicity at its finest, enthralling my sons.


Then there are the real life stories that need to be told. During a visit from my dad, I had the urge to ask a few questions about one of my grandfathers.  My Pop was an Englishman loved by all he knew.  Smiling eyes and bulging muscles, he often reminded me of Popeye.  I remember vividly walking with him, and wherever we went he was warmly greeted by people, old and young alike.  The kids used to call out to say hi to “Mr Bill!” He was a friend to all.

Pop died when I was 7 years old, so I have limited memories, but the ones I have are rich and tangible. However, without the reminiscing and the stories being retold, these memories are in danger of fading, or being lost forever.

When my dad started to tell stories of Pop, his face lit up, the room filled with laughter and we all felt it – we all felt that we touched the mischief and the ebullience that was my Pop.  There was one story in particular that I wish I could tell my own kids, but they will have to wait a few years – we don’t want them testing this one out…

Pop worked at the railway, and was getting sick and tired of his sandwiches being stolen. Going hungry day after day he decided it was time to take action and get the last laugh.  He made some special sandwiches for the lunch box bandit, and spread a layer of dog poo between his bread.  Wrapping them as usual, placing them in the usual spot, he waited for the usual suspect to take their first bite.  Old Pop never did have to worry about his lunch being stolen after that.


Motivated by my own childlike responses to hearing such stories, I  share some more of my childhood memories with my sons often. Their eyes fill with wonder, excitement and shock with these real life “this is what we used to get up to” stories as much (if not more) than they would with the most enthralling picture book by the most popular children’s author.


I want my children to catch a glimpse of me as a child – because they relate to that.  Adult stuff isn’t that interesting to them. They don’t really want to hear about the book I am reading, or that the interest rate just went up again, or that plums are on special this week.  They want to hear adventure, mischief, strife and hilarity – so let’s start telling them the stories that live in our memories, before we forget them.


It’s amazing how much we can remember when we start to tell the story. Keep this ancient art alive. Tell stories, everyday.


A-Z of Gratitude: R is for Reminiscing

Today I took my children to my old hood. I grew up in poverty in a pretty rough neighborhood. I wasn’t really aware at the time how poor we were, because it was all I knew. But as I raise my own family in very different circumstances, I am reminded of how tough it was for my mum, raising three kids on her own in such a tough suburb. She kept a tight reign on us, and boy, I resented her for that at the time. Now, as a parent myself, I’m enormously grateful that she stood firm. In her wisdom, she set boundaries that kept us safe.

Driving around the streets I walked in my childhood stirred me. I still feel so connected to the place, despite it being 16 years since I left. I took the boys to the street I grew up in. I lived there for the first 19 years of my life. Sadly, I could only show them where the house once stood, before it was burnt to the ground. I then took them to my primary school. After that, we drove by my old church. I had to explain again that there used to be a church there, before the act of arson that destroyed it. Finally, we drove to the site on the hill that I walked up each morning for four years of high school. I will never forget the fog that we had to navigate in winter, barely seeing a few meters ahead. Rain would pelt relentlessly and we would sit in wet clothes in class. But stories are all I can share, once again. My old high school was torched and burnt to the ground. I always imagined that it would be more visually appealing taking my children down memory lane, but these familiar places are now just a picture in my minds eye.

The memories were so rich as I drove the streets of my childhood. I could almost hear the familiar sounds of our neighborhood antics. I felt the thrill of riding my bike down our street. I could still see the hordes of kids hanging out at the local park. I can still recall the layout of each of my schools and the faces of my teachers. I can remember the countless ways in which I set my room up, changing it almost as often as the seasons. Memories remain so alive, so vivid because my I reminisce so frequently. I tell stories often, because I don’t want my childhood to be invisible to my children. The house, the church and the school may be invisible to them, but they can still see my childhood. Through my eyes and my reminiscing they get a glimpse of the mummy they can truly relate to- the one that was just like them. A kid, once upon a time.

I’m grateful that despite having a childhood that was difficult on many levels, my brothers and I still reminisce about the good old days.