A seventh generation Southerner, I grew up on stories.
My paternal grandfather was a born storyteller. He just instinctively knew how to set up a story to hook you in, as well as how to pause just at the right times to keep you interested. He lived in the southern Appalachians all his life, so storytelling was in his blood.
My maternal grandfather told stories another way – through scrapbooks of his time in World War II and Korea. Tiny black and white photos showed, rather than told, his story. I only met him three times, so the scrapbooks and photos he left behind are like tiny windows into the life of a person I really didn’t know. Unlike all other branches of my family, my maternal grandfather was born in western North Dakota and spent time working on a combine crew across the great plains.
My maternal grandmother was a printer by trade. In a time when most women were stay at home moms, she owned her own business. She helped get me started with book making in my early twenties. I came up with the design and she gave advice on the materials. To the day she died, she was true to herself and faced death from cancer like a champion.
My paternal grandmother had an inherent fascination with knowing the stories of others. She taught me to listen – a valuable tool for any storyteller. She also had an innate way of sizing up people by instinct. She was a great judge of character. Perhaps this skill was sharpened over thirty years of running a country store that was the hub of a small, rural farming community.
Both of my parents were the first in their families to receive college degrees and both went on to obtain a master’s degree. Both were teachers. Both have kept the oral history of our family alive by constantly telling stories that were told to them by their grandparents and great-grandparents.
I guess I was just born to do this…in a way.