Last month we read Cold Sassy Tree for book club. I had read it before, but I liked it even more this time around. It made me want to shout out a bunch of “boy howdy”s and talk about “dohickies” and things like that…I love the southern-talk in that book. She’s such a great writer.

Anyway, what caught me most this time around is how great the story telling was back in the day. Man oh man are there some great stories the main character tells in that book. And it makes me sad we don’t have that much any more, at least not around here.

It made me think of the hot summer nights we spent at Bear Lake growing up. My brothers and sisters and I stretched out on our nifty fold-out-from-the-wall-hand-crafted-
by-my-dad beds on top of our foam mats. It was hot…our faces beet red from a day at the beach, our bodies aching from our “summer job” of carrying rocks up from the beach to line our rustic front patio. We’d lay still, in hopes that the warm breeze from the whir of the big fan in the window would make it’s way in our direction.

But it wasn’t the heat we were thinking about. It was what sort of imaginative and crazy story my Dad would come up with to tell us that night. He’d sit in the red chair in the corner and spill out the most glorious tales full of all kinds of adventure. There was this boy named after a combination of all my brother’s names who would save the world all the time. There were adventures of that other family that looked just like us in “Mirror Land.” Always so creative and chock full of stuff to keep us hooked. He’d get to the most intense part, and then he’d say…”we’ll have to find out what happens next tomorrow.”

Oh how I hated those stories to end.

Part of our wonder with them was that my Dad is the greatest story-teller of all time. Part was the fact that we got to stay up a little longer to hear the adventures. But mostly I think we liked to hear the smooth, soothing sound of our Dad’s voice so close to us as we went to sleep.

So this book made me think I just don’t do that enough. I’m not a story-teller. I don’t have a great imagination. But I realized I DO have a lot of great material. Not only is it interesting, but it’s true. It’s about me. It’s about my grandparents. It’s about my parents. And when I tell it in story form my kids LOVE to listen to it.

I told them the story of the family with nine kids who camped up in the mountains of Oregon for a month one summer. They lived in a couple tents and a tee pee while they built a log cabin. They went into town once a week (two hours away) to “bathe” at the local swimming pool. The cold spring was their “refrigerator.” They somehow packed in an old wood burning stove so their one daughter who couldn’t go without making chocolate chip cookies for a month would survive. (Ok, and so they could cook something other than tinfoil dinners once in a while.) Their mom read them the best books around the campfire each night.

That was my family. And you probably guessed that the girl who had to make cookies in the middle of the wilderness was me.

I told them the one where this little boy and his brother got SOO scared in a hotel room one night because they thought they heard a lion. It turned out to be a man snoring in the next room.

That was my Dad.

I told them the one where a little girl got to drive a big huge tractor when she was only 12 because she lived on a farm. And how her amazing mother taught her to work so hard.

That was my Mom and her Mom.

I told them the one about a girl in sixth grade who couldn’t close her mouth because she had such a huge overbite along with braces and head gear. And how she hated it but she was so glad she went through it when she finally got her braces off.

That was me again.

I told them the one about this brave boy, the oldest of five kids, who lost his Dad to cancer when he was fifteen. This one makes me cry every time I think about it. His widowed mother was so strong and took care of so much by herself. And that boy had to kick in and sort of be a “Dad” to his younger siblings at such a young age. Although they both had to go through so much heart ache it made them into such extraordinary people.

That was my Dad and my Grandma.

I told the one about how this one girl’s family pulled her out of her beloved high school when she was a freshman and whisked her off along with her eight siblings to live in England for six months. She about died because she missed her friends so much and she had to wear a very ugly brown school uniform to her English school there. But when it was all said and done boy oh boy she wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world! Hard is good.

That was me again.

And I can’t forget the one about how this very handsome boy took his girlfriend on a hike up to a waterfall. He got really nervous and shaky as he pulled a diamond ring out of his sock (yes, his sock), put it on her finger and asked her to marry him. She said “yes” with stars in her eyes and knew that her life was going to be one great adventure with this man by her side.

That was Dave and me.

I realized I do have SO many stories! My kids adore hearing them and they know more about their parents and grandparents along with being entertained. I never tell them who the story is about until the end, but sometimes they’re pretty quick to guess.

Now I’m off to study some serious ancestor stories to put in “story” form for them.

There’s nothing like a good story.

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  1. Amen.
    Bring back story hour!
    My dad used to tell us crazy on-going, to-be-continued stories and we just ate them up. And we loved hearing stories that my Grandma would tell us about when she was a girl growing up with her 8 sisters {a.k.a “the nine mermaids”.} We wished the stories would never end, and you’re right, there’s just not enough of it anymore. Great post.

  2. Oh I love that!! I am so intrigued by your stories and I am a full-blown adult, I can only imagine how hooked your kids must be! You for sure have some great “material” to share with your family. You are motivating me to share our family stories to my own kids. Thanks so much!

  3. Awesome post Shawni! Love those stories! I need to do that more with my kids. Thanks for sharing… always so many inspiring ideas.

  4. Oh Shawni I loved that post, it brought tears to my eyes. That is such a great idea to tell stories about your own family in “story form”. I will always remember that. And I will never forget your dad and his stories, as well as many wonderful nights up at the cabin in bear lake. I remember when your dad told me and Charity that we could call Santa Clause anytime and ask him if we were being good. He gave us an actual phone number and of course we called it, and believe it or not, someone always answered. I remember Charity and I would call that number all the time and sure enough, Santa would answer. I’ll never know who that man was, but man did your sweet dad sure expand my imagination as a child through his wonderful stories.

  5. Oh Shawni, I totally agree! Each and every night I tell my girls a story. They are usually made up on the spot. But sometimes, often times, when I am too tired to let my imagination run wild, I pull out stories of my Dad, Mom, Grandparents, children, and siblings. They laugh. I laugh. It’s the best!

    I finally ran out of stories, so I wrote everyone and had them send me two stories about themselves.

    Whenever I have a family visitor I have them tell the girls a bedtime story about themselves. There is no better way to pass down your history!

    Loved this post!

  6. So I know this post is 8 years old, but I am clutching at straws with a 6 year old who is figuring out life as a 6 year old and being incredibly defiant to figure out just how much independence and boundaries she has. I went searching on your blog for some ideas and I think we need to work more on our family unity. We do almost EVERYTHING together, there is not a single meal had where we aren't all at the table together and we discuss different things (favourite things, successes, interesting ideas, etc) as a family, but we don't have anything like a family motto or set of family rules or anything and I think it might help her feel more secure. I am not a story teller, but I even I can manage this! Thank you for a great idea, I've already got my first story idea for tonight.

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