“Then I understood that in my own life I represented a whole period of American history. That the frontier was gone, and agricultural settlements had taken its place when I married a farmer. It seemed to me that my childhood had been much richer and more interesting than that of children today, even with all the modern inventions and improvements.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder, as referenced in Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser
Storytelling just seems to be on my mind lately. Recently, while substitute teaching a high school English class, students were asked to respond to a journal prompt asking them to name the best storyteller in their life and what made that person such a great storyteller. As students wrote, I responded in my own way. I thought about what I would write.
Hands down, my dad is the best storyteller I know. Maybe it is the fact that he is a hunter and storytelling is such a rich part of the hunting tradition or maybe he just likes to gab. It could be a little of both. As a young girl, I loved listening to my dad’s stories, no matter what the subject. Throughout my childhood, he told me local legends, none of which I quite believed. In fact, my dad has a reputation for making a story more exciting or scary for his children. When he told me the local legend of the witchy wolves (you can read what I wrote about them here), I truly thought he made it up in an effort to scare me and my sister. Our family happened to be walking in the Omer plains, the supposed home of the witchy wolves, when he told me this story, which added to the ambiance. One of many, dad always seemed to have some story to share.
What makes him such a good storyteller? I am not sure, but I do know that he likes to include elements of truth, humor, and fear in his stories. His best stories include all three. Some of his hunting stories, which always contain more of a human element than anything, stick with me after all these years. More than anything, he knows how to keep interest and seems to always have a story for any occasion.
If there is one thing that I hope to inherit from my parents, it is their storytelling abilities. While children’s love of good storytelling doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, there is a disconnect. They way we tell stories changed. If we are looking to encourage kids to engage more with the world around them instead of the digital world, maybe we should encourage them to tell their own stories and develop their own storytelling abilities and style.
Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I am a part of the micro-generation between Gen Xers and Millennials, born between 1977 and 1983, now called Xennials. Those of us in that microgeneration watched our world transition from analog to digital. This is one of the main reasons we are considered our own microgeneration. While Gen Xers largely experienced a largely analog childhood, Millennials are the first true digital natives. As a Xennial, I experienced the transition firsthand. This is precisely why I can relate to the Laura Ingalls Wilder quote above. I may not have experienced the frontier, but I did experience a fundamental change in culture and way of life. I can only hope to tell my story of that transition. All I can do is keep trying.