There are Stories to be Told
Start a Family Tradition
By Debbie Rodgers
One of the most rewarding ways to use your outdoor living space
is to gather your family members for a reunion. Perhaps it's a small group that
gets together annually, or a large one whose far-flung members attend every two
or five or even 10 years. Whether large or small, a reunion is a wonderful
opportunity to knit families closer together through shared stories.
In the much-underrated 1990 film Avalon, a Russian immigrant to
1940s America relates the disintegration of his family ties. In his young
manhood, his children gathered at the feet of older relatives during family
gatherings and listened to tales of their heritage and history. As television
took hold of society in the late '50s, children and adults alike opted for the
entertainment of television personalities, instead of the stories of their
But just as the art of listening to stories has gone by the
wayside, so has the art of telling them. Here's how to re-start a tradition of
storytelling at your family reunion.
• Advise all who will be attending that there will be an
opportunity to tell some stories about the family, and let them know you'd love
to hear them share something. Especially encourage older ones to think about
their children when they were young, their own childhood, or even stories they
may remember from their parents. With only a little effort, you can be hearing
about things that happened over a century ago.
• Have some questions prepared to start the ball rolling. "Where
did your family go on vacation when your children were small?" "How did you and
Grandpa meet?" "What's the funniest thing one of your children ever did?" "How
did you manage through tough times?"
• Encourage storytellers to use descriptions that will engage
all of the senses. Was the thunder rolling in the distance just before the
downpour when Grandma and Grandpa bumped into each other running for cover? Did
the scent of the lilacs in Aunt Ellen's garden waft in through her kitchen
window? Was there a cool breeze on the beach near the family vacation campsite?
Did the sun sparkle off the snow on the mid-winter drive to Uncle Max's? Was the
strawberry jam your mom made the sweetest you ever tasted? Use touch, smell and
taste as well as sight and sound to bring the scene to life for listeners.
• The best stories have a point. "That's when I first learned
how important it is to be on time." "If it hadn't rained that day, we might
never have met, and most of you would never have been born!" It doesn't have to
be profound, but be prepared to help your tellers wrap up their stories with a
short statement of its significance.
• Get the younger ones involved too -- perhaps you can encourage
them to be official family historians who will record the stories. If there's a
group, give them papers and drawing materials and ask them to make pictures of
the scenes they will hear unfold. You can have the older ones label the drawings
and then gather them together with ribbon. Each family can take home their
personal family album.
• If there are old photographs that support an account, or a
time period, mount these in archive quality materials and display them in a
shady spot or pass them around while the story is being told. Use other mementos
as well. Your great-grandfather's railroad watch that he wore to work every day
for 45 years, or a playbill from your first date will help bring life to the
accounts of those special times.
So gather your loved ones on your porch or patio and make some
memories while you start a storytelling tradition.
Debbie Rodgers, the haven maven, owns and operates Paradise Porch, and
is dedicated to helping people create outdoor living spaces that
nurture and enrich them. Her latest how-to guide "Attracting
Butterflies to Your Home and Garden" is now available on her web site.
Visit her at
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