One thing my husband likes to say to me about my family is that ‘they always like repeating stories! I’ve heard the same story fifty thousand times and yet they still repeat it! They LOVE repeating stories!’
He says it like it’s a negative thing, and I used to see his point of view and started to think it was negative too. But then I stopped short.
I remember I ENJOYED those repetitive stories.
‘Mum, tell us about that time Uncle Nigel flooded a hotel party!’, or ‘Mum, tell us again that story about you and Kitty riding your tricycles to the police station when you were three’, or ‘Let’s hear that tale of when Dad broke his back when I was born.’
My mum would tell us all the family stories instead of bedtime stories before we fell asleep. She would tell us of the scrapes she and her cousins got up to when they were younger and turn them into episodes and we would listen avidly, despite knowing what came next. It was her voice and inflections and the way she built the suspense. Her voice rose and fell and lulled us to a space of serene security. If I close my eyes I can still hear how she would tell her stories.
Now we are too old for bedtime stories, she tells us of things her mother used to do and say, and what she saw and did when she was younger. She tells us things she experiences now, turning them into little stories and ‘morals’ and ‘lessons’. And yes, I may have heard those stories hundreds of times, but before somebody who doesn’t appreciate them pointed out that the repetition is annoying, I never noticed or cared that she was repeating herself.
And I love them! My husband’s family don’t like to tell and re-tell stories like that. They just allude to things but don’t elaborate on them and make them events in and of themselves like my family do. They are more reserved, you see, whereas my family is a little more ‘out there’, letting emotions out as and when they arrive.
Our families are different and that is ok. But I have realised a very important fact. And that is that stories are very important to me. I myself repeat stories often, I catch myself doing it, and my husband rolling his eyes at me, but I can’t help it. I like doing it. I think I am doing it more for myself than for those listening to me. Also there are those who like my stories too!
I elaborate on them and add flourishes and, like my parents, I do the voices and gestures and act it out.
Maybe my son will appreciate my stories and will be a storyteller too, but he may also find the stories annoying and resort to retelling experiences with a wry smile and not do the accents. Either way. It is ok. We are who we are and we are born of the stories that shaped us.
Also, whether you tell stories with a flourish or not, you will still tell stories. Stories are just the narratives of our lives, and we choose how to tell them, be it with flamboyancy or reserved calm.