Our stories define us, they tell who we are and where we came from. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Natalie Goldberg whose fan I have been for many years. She writes books to help writers to write. And what she said really struck a chord for me. "It's all important," she said. "The jello that you ate and the kool aid that you drank and how your father treated you is all important." She said that writing is a journey of self-discovery. I agree with her. I've always kept journals and when I look back at where I've gone, some things amaze me and others make me laugh at myself, which is always a good thing. We discover ourselves through our stories and we also come to know others.
Our stories also help us to preserve the memories of our loved ones. I once asked my grandma what her life was like growing up. She told me about Milwaukee as it was at the turn of the century, horses instead of cars, great fields and farms instead of suburban acres. Years later, my mother elaborated. My great-grandmother left her husband because he was a drinker. That was unheard of in the Polish Catholic neighborhoods of south Milwaukee. They moved far away, which in those days was only about five blocks from where they had been, but it was a different parish, different priest, different neighbors. I was glad to know these things. If my mom hadn't told me that story, how would I have known my great-grandmother had such character and raised a family of five children all by herself in those days. From what my mother told me, my great-grandmother drew people together and her home was home to some of her children and their children at times even after they were grown. My grandmother was the same way and I remember happy family parties during many holidays in her home.
Among my women friends, it is through our stories that we get to know eachother. As a transplant from the midwest, I was fortunate to connect with a small church near my neighborhood and, being lonesome for female companionship, I developed friendships there. At potluck suppers at my house, which have been many over the years, I enjoy suggesting a story topic for our discussion time. Those suppers have enabled me to create the family meals that I so enjoyed as a child at my grandmother's house. And the stories we've told have created the extended family that we have come to be.
Some of the subscribers to this website are people that I know and I am so happy when I hear their enthusiasm about telling their own stories. There was one about a grandmother who was supposed to be the tooth fairy on a camping trip, but lost the tooth in a bowl of white sweet corn! Other tales are more poignant, a person on a journey to tell the story of a recently-deceased loved one in honor of the memory.
Writer or not, when we preserve the details of our life, it helps others to know us. As my friend Jay Speyerer says, "you are interesting now, but you will be fascinating 50 years from now!" The idea is to just jump in and begin!