Remembering the Storytellers

I love stories. There are stories in movies, books, blogs, theaters and many other places, but the best way to hear a story is to be with another person and listen. In celtic cultures, there is an awareness that each of us carries an internal universe within us, which only we ourselves can experience. I believe when somebody tells me a story, this person shares a tiny part of their universe with me. Two worlds meet, ever so briefly. A story also is a way to open ourselves to experience the world through someone else’s eyes. By showing us a view our eyes have not yet seen, we can learn to see more of what is in front of us. Storytelling is a bit scary for me, too. I am sharing a bit of my inner universe with you. When you glimpse inside the shell, you may see me differently than you have before. Then again, I have had the privilege of being told many stories, meeting people who were opening their inner universe for me. So now it is time to remember some of them.

The first storyteller I loved to listen to was my mother. On the evenings when she was tucking me in for the night as a small child, I would always ask me to please tell me a story. “Ask” may not be the right word, I outright bugged her about it. Now and then she gave in, cuddled up with me in bed, lights out, and asked me what I wanted to hear. What do you think I asked for? Fairy tales I could read myself. No, I wanted stories of people in my family. What was it like when Mama was young? What did Oma and Opa do? And all those people I just knew from family albums? I could never, ever get enough of those. I think I felt the stories connect me to my ancestors, grounded my world in the past.  Sadly, by the time I was in 2nd and 3rd grade, those evenings got rare and eventually ceased to be.

Who came to the rescue? Johann Albert Friedrich Wilhelm Dieterich, or Opa Wilhelm for short. He not only could wiggle his large ears quite well, he also made stories come to live. A simple story on green beens was told so well, I felt I was there watching little Wilhelm running around the village dealing with a peculiar Sunday lunch calamity. To this day, I eat green beans with a smile on my face.

Then there was Mr Martin, my very british high-school english teacher. My first English lesson with him was in 11th grade. He gave each of us a small piece of paper with a paragraph describing who we were to be. Then he asked us to introduce ourselves to each other. What a boring exercise. When we got started, we found that each of us was connected to someone else: I, the pony, introduced myself to a kid who owned a pony. There was the father who just bought hay for his daughter’s pet, and so on. By the end of the 90 minute session, we were able to stage a play telling a complete story! Needless to say, Mr Martin was a gifted storyteller himself, and a great actor as well. He later went on to a second career of storytelling in the local cabarets.

Barra the Bard: I never met her, but her grandmother’s lost Welsh harp plays on for both of us. Her story resonated with me because in my family, there is also a musical instrument which took the same path as that harp. Oh how mad I got when Mama told me that story! In Barra, I found someone who understood this feeling.

Tante Ursel, Tante Inge, my Dad and Tante Regina, they all tell stories of life in Soltau. Plants tell us the story of the climate they grew in; rocks tell the story of Earth. As time and people pass, stories get lost, but some continue on. Come, sit down with me, and tell me a story.

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