Finding Story at Home
Sometimes we search for stories, and sometimes we realize they were always there. We just have to accept the invitation. My mother has always been and is the resident storyteller in our family. Even though I travel as a storyteller, it is in her roots. She was raised on the old stories of Clay County West Virginia, the place she was born.
Each day all six kids would sit on a dilapidated old couch as my mother would regale us with stories of our Uncle Dude, (Yes we had one.), recalling when grandpa rode the mule to town, and sharing her travels to the relative that who scared her with her call of "Old Devil, where you been?", not mention the bull that she ran to avoid.
Our home was and is rich with stories. As I mentioned, stories are in my mom's roots. Just like a well-tended garden, my mother knows how to keep, raise, and take care of stories.
My mother took me on a tour of her garden. I can barely call it a tour, instead she is the host and I was the company to this soil. As I heard and saw the fruits of her labor, it was the stories around and within the garden that captivating me. As much as Chaucer went on a pilgrimage, walking this sacred soil, this fertile ground, I was able to go back to the days of when the cherry tree stood and my sister Melinda and my brother Steven would climb it and play games of 'catch me if you can' and act out the next adventure tales of Raider of the Lost Arc or Spiderman.
I can still see my other sisters Pam and Sherry racing in the red Gran Torino they bought together avoiding driving into the garden to get to their joint job at Wendy. They were often late. They were inseparable but distinctly had their own ways of doing things, just like sisters do.
I would hear of the exploits of my older brother Michael who is currently cutting
down the trees to provide more access in our driveway. I would remember when he would come home from his trap line carrying possums, muskrats, and creatures that I don't remember.
He would go to the basement and well, I would let him tend to the animals. I remember once he broke skunk lore in our refrigerator and the smell, yes a new refrigerator was ordered. I recall the time that my little sister, Melinda raced to take a bath first. Little did we know that mike was boiling water for his traps in the bathtub. Melinda yelled "I am first, "I am first," not wearing a stitch of clothes and were so lucky and thankful she was not burned. We learned to check the water after that.
I saw the tools that she used to care for the garden. Some spoke to the passage of time such as scythe. She said Mike brought it to her but began to say this is the tools they had back on Crooked Run, the name of the hollar.
Each walk that I took with my mom she would speak to what was hollyhocks and what was weeds. I am still struck as she can discern what is what, but with the description, a tale is told about them. I would see the satellite dish and learn it was moved because of the trees.
I would pass the place that the mammoth turtle, the biggest would crawl from the ground and my brother Steve and I would watch it in slow motion climb to the nearby railroad tracks. We never understood how it got there. This is how it is with stories, sometimes they show up. However, sometimes they cultivated like the giant sunflower, I mean one that would win the world record just shows up in our garden. We see it, but we don't realize what it took to make it grow. We accept the story, but we never question the process.
I remember how she would hide a plastic snake in an old pipe during our family Easter egg hunt but with that was also the prize egg with a dollar taped to it. We often took the risk, but a scream or two was heard as we reached for the egg.
I asked about the little plastic bags that are perched on the flowers. She says, "don't touch them, I need then to get my money back." She ordered from a seed company, the same one she has used for years, but none of the seeds worked. She had the dead roots to prove it. She said she is thinking of calling the company to get new seeds. This too is the way with stories, sometimes we spend too much time watering dead roots, when we need to look for new places for other stories to grow.
My mother tells me how the neighborhood business who lied and told her it was going to be a candy factory has placed a fence on her property. Instead it became a large equipment place, loud and dangerous. In casual conversation I learned she went to the city board to insist that the fence be built because "you six kids would jump in the dirt piles and I had to protect you from hurting yourself." This was no small dirt piles, this was a mountain of dirt and each family members and our guests would sail down the hill at a running start. It is so with story we need to protect it sometimes because others want to misrepresent or change it so much that the story doesn't true any more. We can share with others if we do the research, find out the roots, and protect the soil of the story.
Some members of our soil we have lost too soon namely my father and taken too soon, my sister Sherry. However, we have all shared the same soil. We learned from the roots, my mom and dad. My dad showed me how to love without judge. My sister shared how to laugh and take advantage of the little joys in the world. Their lessons help me grow.
I recently discovered that our neighbor wanted the use and take the small strip of land we have as part of our mom's garden to park cars for his growing girls to park their cars. He has the right. Taking away the garden is taking away some of the stories. However, I believe he sees how much story soil grows there because he recently told my mother maybe he will do this next year.
As I took that walk with my mother, I am reminded of how much she keeps our story and how I treasure each step because it brings me closer to knowing how to grow my own tales.
My wife and I are thinking perhaps it is time to think about building a little garden in our yard.
*We would invite you to share your garden story or a story about that you are cultivating. Be sure to subscribe so you can hear more stories and be part of the community. We grow better when we share together.