Lately, my son has been asking to be told family stories.
Stories like this one:
When I was a kid, we lived in Nigeria—that’s in Africa. We kids ran around naked quite a lot because it was so hot. One day, your Uncle Shannon was playing in the yard when a baboon—that’s a kind of monkey with a very ugly butt—jumped down from a tall tree and landed right in front of him. Uncle Shannon ran at the baboon. The baboon fled, but then, after a minute, turned around began chasing Uncle Shannon! Imagine those two, a little boy and a big monkey, both naked as can be, chasing each other around and around in the hot, hot sun. So many bare bums!
This story elicits lots of laughter, especially when acted out.
Telling family stories has been good for my two kids, particularly as we live far, far away from our dearest ones. They are learning where they come from, how achievement and failure, mistakes and forgiveness, loss and loyalty and love are already a part of them.
As I dig deep to remember other stories, I realize how good this remembering and telling is for me too. As of late, my WIP has been a sleepy old thing. Yawn. But with the telling of family stories, I sense it waking, little by little. The more family stories I tell, the more truths are remembered to me about what it means to be human, about the strength and innovation that are a part of all of us, and these truths are my WIP’s caffeine.
Every family has at least one story about one of their own achieving the impossible, surviving colossal failure, crossing mighty waters, forgiving the unforgivable, finding courage they never knew they had, (or just monkeying around)—in big or small ways stretching their resources to make the world a better place for the generations to come.
It’s impossible to write fiction without embedding in it your worldview. Who you are is the fiction you write. Fairly self-evident but worth remembering just the same–who you are is as much about who and where you come from as the individual you have grown to be.