Four years ago, I announced to my girls, then ages 30, 26 and 24, that I was thinking about skipping all of the Thanksgiving side dishes and just going with roasted vegetables. They are healthier for you and just as good. “What, Mom?” One daughter asked. “What about the mashed potatoes?” while another said “No corn pudding?” It was at that moment that I realized my husband and I had developed some very special family traditions. My own mom was famous for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and since that time, we have added a few new dishes. We have also added family stories.
Back in the 1960s, when I was a young child, I remember my grandmother telling us we were lucky to have fresh vegetables to go with Thanksgiving dinner. Grandma told us that during the war, canned vegetables were often the only kind available. Later, in the 1970s, while helping my mom prepare dinner, she stressed the importance of fresh vegetables and reminded me of grandma’s story about canned vegetables.
Wow, have times changed! What have not changed are the great stories that can be passed down from generation to generation. These are not written stories but those told by grandparents, aunts and uncles, about family memories. My grandchildren often ask me to tell them stories about when I was growing up and what I did as a kid. I love taking the time to reminisce about what my friends and siblings did when we were younger. Some of my stories detail tough times of getting along with others while others tell about day-long adventures with my girlfriends and our horses. Many of the stories describe my life growing up as the oldest child in my family, leading the neighborhood parade, playing the teacher in our play/schoolhouse or becoming an elected constable.
Start small by sharing one or two things you remember about your family. Telling stories around food with family is the easiest. With holidays coming and families gathering, start sharing your stories. Pull all of the children together to hear one. These stories don’t have scripts to follow or pictures to be seen. Rather stories create a painted picture of the past in the mind of the listener.
No matter when or where we tell the stories, nothing is needed other than good listening ears and an open mind. Telling stories only costs us our time, and helps to protect and bring family members closer together. It helps families remember and realize the struggles they have overcome, celebrations that were joyous and the sad times that we have endured. Storytelling creates rich narratives of family history, its traditions and cultures, and life lessons. What will your first story be?
Anne E. Mead, M. Ed., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.