I realized the other day that I can never answer any of my daughter's simple questions with a simple answer. I can't do it. And I know it annoys the heck out of her.
Every answer, must, MUST include a story to illustrate what I'm trying to tell her. If I don't pull in some story, be it from life experience, history or some theoretical what-if, the answer feels incomplete.
Even though it annoys my daughter, and probably my husband, and very likely anyone else in my little universe that has had the misfortune of getting roped into a story as part of the answer to a simple question, I've noticed something. A couple things actually.
First, using story makes my answer feel more complete. When I've finally shut up, I feel like I've actually answered the question asked of me.
Second, I've noticed that my daughter goes from glassy eyed to engaged when I use story to answer some question of hers. Story pulls her in, and gets her thinking on multiple levels to really incorporate what I'm telling her.
Above all, I'm a story teller. Maybe it's the Viking and Irish and Scottish blood that's mixed deep within my soul. Maybe it is simply who I am. My life has always been full of stories from as early as I can remember.
I can remember cleaning cupboards every spring with my grandmother, and her telling me the history of every piece in her china collection. By the time I was 18, I knew where every bowl, glass and figurine had come from, and which pieces needed specially careful handling as they were more prone to shattering and cutting the unwary.
I remember going through photo albums with her, and learning, not only the names and faces in the photos, but the story behind the photo. Why had she been wearing that dress for that photo? Why were my great-grandmothers dressed the same in this other photo? What brought my grandfather from Minnesota to Alaska?
Even her paintings had stories behind them. She could tell you what that dilapidated old barn had been in it's prime, even though she'd never seen it in real life; why there was a squirrel on that tree, instead of on the fencepost.
And yes, I think she too, answered questions with stories. She would have told you that she was just a housewife that liked to hear herself talk, but she taught me about the magic of words and story. Ours is a history that is so much more than black and white photos to me. Our family history is full of characters, conflicts, magic, and resolutions that turned into more conflicts and climaxes. The circle of story is meant to come back around and start over.
And so, I am a writer. A teller of stories. A mother teaching her daughter the power of a good story. This is who I am. Questions might be simple, but the answers seldom are.
*This post originally appeared on one of my old blogs, on Sept. 27, 2016. I will be moving the blog posts over there to sagewolfsong.com gradually.*