Monday, March 5, 2012

The Storytelling Gene

I've been mulling over the root of my storytelling desires. There is a great-great-uncle on my father's side of the family who was a journalist/writer in the Netherlands. I might have gotten some of it from him. He also had a semi-photographic memory which I have as well. It's gotten a little shoddy over the last few years of hormonal upheaval, but it's still fairly reliable. I always know where to find stuff I need to round out my world.

So a smidgeon can be attributed to this man whom I have never met. A large amount of creativity comes through my father's line: artistic endeavors abound. He painted, sketched, photographed, doodled. He was also a calligrapher. I have dabbled in painting but it requires too much patience and perfectionism which drive me batty. I'm just a slob artist. My aunt, his sister, is also very artistic and before arthritis robbed her of using her hands she painted watercolors and oil portraits. She's very gifted. My daughter has a lot of those talents and uses them for graphic design.

My mother's side of the family is more practical. But I believe my gift for telling stories comes directly from my Oma de Vries on that side of the family. Everything I know about that family I learned from her. I'd sit and listen to her recount the days they spent in the Japanese concentration camps, the days before the camps turned their lives upside down, the days afterward when they were reintegrated but never the same due to the loss of a beloved son.

She had an amazing ear for voice, dialect, language. She had a rise and fall in her telling which mimicked the actual people who populated those times. She had a way of moving her hands to punctuate the points of her stories. Over and over and over she'd tell me these stories almost as if she knew that I would one day be responsible for the remembering of them. For the retelling and carrying forward.

She gave me a living history throughout sixteen years. I can retell the stories with her same inflections and punctuation. I can visualize clearly the people and events and places that populated her stories. I want to write them down before I am too old to remember or crippled by age to physically recount the stories.

I got my storytelling gene from this amazing woman. A woman who lived through two wars, raised 3 children, taught elementary school, married a naval officer and lived in Surabaja, Indonesia during all 3 pregnancies and deliveries. She almost died of a burst appendix when she was a young mother. She lived through 4 years of internment in a Japanese concentration camp while not knowing if her husband and her son were dead or alive.

She was a gift to me that I have always cherished. She was someone who never met a stranger, who was a hostess always in her corner of the world--even in the camps--and who lived life to the fullest.

Where did you get your storytelling gene?


joanleacott said...

Wow, your Oma was an incredible woman. My mother-in-law had scary tales of escaping the Gestapo and standing for four days in a train to get to safe territory. These women are awe-inspiring.

My story-telling gene comes from my Morfar (mother's father). He had people in stitches when he told tales. I only wish I could have understood his language.

Robin Bielman said...

I've never thought about it. There is definitely amazing artistic ability on my mom's side of the family, but I think I might be the first to have a passion for writing.

Thanks for sharing your Oma with us!

Christine said...

Hi Joan: The wars brought the best and the worst out of people. My Oma was a better person because of her triumph over adversity. Sounds like yours was, too. Scary times!!!

Your Morfar sounds amazing.

Christine said...

Hi Robin: You're welcome. I think of her often as she was such a big part of why I chose to dream big dreams. I think artistry comes from all kinds of backgrounds. Sounds like you're creating art with words.