Celebrating National Share A Story Month

Storyteling

This month we celebrate the power of storytelling with ‘National Share A Story Month’ and what a great subject!

Our lives are shaped by stories, from the ancient stories passed through centuries and retold to us in books to the stories we hear from our parents, grandparents and relatives.

In many cultures the stories of ancestors and forefathers form the traditions and culture of the people.

It’s stories that shape our future, build bonds with our families and perhaps most important of all keep history alive.

Last week I watched an episode of the Antiques Roadshow. A lady had brought along a beautiful evening dress dating back to the 1940s.

The dress belonged to Christine Augustin, her mother, and had been passed down to her.  Without the story attached this was just a beautiful old dress but with the story the dress became a magical piece.

Christine lived in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. As a teenager the dress had been made for her in anticipation of a wonderful celebration. Indonesia was on the brink of invasion by the Japanese as WWII continued in Asia.

When the Japanese soldiers arrived Christine and her family were told to pack a suitcase as they were been sent to an Internment Camp.

Christine asked her mother if she could take her new ballgown but was told there was no room for such luxuries. Unbeknown to her family she stuffed the gown into the lining of her sleeping bag and there it stayed throughout her harrowing stay in the camp bringing her comfort and the hope of better times.

She was a lucky survivor and weighed just 3 ½ stone when she was finally released. She went on to live a happy life despite the trauma of her teens. The most wonderful part of the piece recorded for Antiques Roadshow was the moment the daughter, produced a photograph of her Mother, Post War wearing her dress to a ball. A simple photograph, easily passed over in a box of memories, an old gown hanging lifeless in a wardrobe. But together, with the story attached a beautiful piece of history to cherish.

Even children’s stories can bring a little bit of magic to an otherwise solemn occasion.  At a recent Funeral I conducted I overheard the most wonderful conversation between three generations. The sister of the deceased was thanking people for attending and catching up with family she hadn’t seen in over a year due to COVID. Her son and grandson approached, “Mum, you’ll never guess what book is Oscar’s favourite?” (Oscar is her great grandson) “The Ballad of Firtilstern United”.

Within a second her face lit up, this was the book she’d read to her grandchildren which had been passed down and now had a new life in another generation.

In today’s modern, fast paced world we perhaps don’t take enough time to stop and listen to the tales the older generation have to tell or to read a bedtime story to our little ones.

Grandad telling granddaughter a story

I can’t say that I had a bedtime story every night when I was little though I can remember vividly the big red book of fairy tales and rhymes, too heavy for my little hands and beautifully illustrated and full of tales of wonder and magic. The tradition of bedtime stories continued with my children and they can still recite parts of their favourite stories which are safely stored in the attic ready for the next generation.

What perception do you, or your children have of your parents/grandparents.

Too old to be cool?

Hell no!

They are walking, talking history books. They will have stories to tell of the music they listened to, bands and films they saw, the rules they broke and the fun they had! Talk to them, ask them to share their stories with and watch their eyes light up as they recall the stories of their lives!

As a Celebrant I’m all about stories and truly believe that every life is a story to be told, regardless of how “normal” it may appear.

I listen with wonder and awe as families share tiny nuances about their loved ones and often wish I’d had the chance to meet them.

I often think of some of the elderly relatives I had when I was younger and how little I thought about the history they had lived through and the stories they could have told me.

Two such ladies come to mind both born in 1900, both living to over 100.

It’s only as I grew-up I realised just what they had witnessed in their lives.

By the time they were 21 years old this included:

  • Death of 2 Monarchs, Queen Victoria & Edward VII,
  • Spanish flu which lasted for 2 years and effected 500 million people worldwide,
  • Two Coronations, Edward VII and George V,
  • The sinking of the Titanic,
  • The first aeroplane flight
  • Formation of the RAF,
  • The Suffragette movement
  • The first talking pictures,
  • World War 1.

By 30

  • The Roaring twenties
  • Women were given the right to vote
  • Wall Street crash
  • Penicillin invented
  • Television was introduced to the world

By 40

  • Death of a Monarch George V
  • The first Abdication of a British Monarch
  • Coronation of George VI
  • Start of WWII.

……. And we’re not even half way through their lives at this point!!

I wish I’d taken the time and stopped to think just what I could have learnt from these ladies and how different their stories would have been from those we read in history books.

So, take a little time to listen and learn from the people in your lives. Just think if you have relatives who are late 70’s or early 80’s they were teenagers in the 60’s. Imagine what tales they may have to tell if you make the time to listen to their stories.

Denise x

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