Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Theodore Alexander Wright - A Tribute

If Theodore Alexander Wright, my father, were still alive, he would have turned 105 years old yesterday. He was fifty years old when I was born. I was thirty-five years old when he died.

Daddy had an interesting life. The oldest of eleven siblings, he went to work in the coal mines of Virginia City, Virginia at age fourteen, risking his life daily to help support his family. During the Great Depression, unable to find work, he spent a few years as a hobo, hopping freight trains all over North America. On December 7, 1941, the attack on Peal Harbor spurred him to try to join the Navy. He was turned down because he had high blood pressure. “Don’t worry, Bub,” he was told. “The Army will take you.”

Daddy was drafted into the army in 1942, when he was 37 years old. Though he looked forward to action, the military decided that his mechanical skills would be of more use in the states, where he repaired airplanes.

I loved listening to Daddy tell stories, and so did everybody else who knew him. He could hold people spellbound for hours with tales of his travels. He was a walking, talking history book. He had lived a lot of history, and listening to his life experiences taught me more than any textbook ever could. Following his example, I use stories myself to teach, to entertain, and to create community. Storytelling is the best gift my father ever gave me.

I never saw Daddy angry, never heard him raise his voice to anyone. When I misbehaved, the look of disappointment on his face hurt more than any spanking ever could. Daddy would never lay a hand on a child.

I was a sickly child who feared death. Daddy knew that and would sit with me through the night whenever I had a fever. At six feet five inches tall, 230 pounds, he filled the little room that I shared with my sister, Evelyn. He was a mountain of a man.

In his later years, Daddy delighted in his grandchildren. He was especially close to my daughter, Melanie. Since I was a single mother, he took her to her first Father/Daughter dance. Along with my mother, he took care of Melanie while I worked. He walked her to and from school every day. When she got older, she was embarrassed to have to be walked to school, but afraid to walk by herself. Daddy had the plan to solve that problem. He walked several yards behind her and would not turn around to go home until she snapped her fingers in the air, her signal that she close enough to the school to be okay.

When I got married and moved North, Daddy wrote me a letter every week. I still have all of them, and I treasure them. I will pass them on to Melanie one day.

Daddy died of Multiple Myeloma on August 10, 1987. There is never a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. I love you, Daddy.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Legend of Glen Onoko

Compact Disc Review

The Legend of Glen Onoko

Available from Kathy Long, 43 Third Ave., Lehighton, PA 18235, Phone: 610-377-0428. Email: Website: $15.00 includes shipping and handling. To order, call Kathy at 610-377-0428

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

Kathy Long has a voice that is clear, sweet, and musical, lending itself nicely to the lovely folk-tales on this CD of familiar stories, stamped with her considerable and unique charm. Listen to it with your eyes closed and be prepared for a colorful imaginary journey of love, magic, and wisdom personified.

How Stories Began is a Seneca tale of the first storyteller, lured into trading rabbits for Grandfather Stone’s entrancing tales. Need a definition of story? This tale provides several.

The Magic Pomegranate, a Jewish story, tells of three selfless brothers who go on a quest to find something special to share with one another, only to use their newly discovered treasures to come to the aid of a dying princess who is very wise.

The Peddler of Swaffham, a version of a tale found in multiple cultures, profiles a “middle-man” who is prompted to follow his dream after losing his livelihood. Where will the dream lead him?

From the Onondaga Tribe, The Dancing Brothers is a pour quoi tale that explains why pine trees grow tall, and how a well-known constellation was created.

The jewel on this CD is the Magic Garden of the Poor, a Kazakh tale of two selfless brothers and a wise, compassionate student who seek to use a treasure to benefit others. In today’s downward-spiraling economy, many would welcome such simple wisdom.

The Damselfly is an original fairy tale about the importance of insects to the cycle of life. Bug-lovers will delight in this tale.

The Legend of Glen Onoko is Long’s version of a local legend featuring star-crossed lovers who defy family to be together. Historical facts and real places are sprinkled throughout.

In today’s harried world, one easily takes for granted the wisdom and educational value of folk tales. This CD offers a return to simpler times where people follow their hearts and find that hope lies at the end of their journeys. Go on an imaginary journey with this CD and you will discover the treasure at the end of the rainbow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Your Story - Pass It Along

By Linda Goodman ©1998

As a storyteller, I am fascinated with personal and family stories. Hearing other storytellers share personal tales is what lured me into becoming a storyteller myself.

Why is the personal or family tale so special? The reasons are many and varied.

First, they are entertaining. Who has not been to a family gathering without coming away with a treasure trove of family stories to be passed along from generation to generation? When my family gets together, storytelling is the main event. We laugh, we cry, we try to outdo one another in bringing forth obscure memories. Through these stories, I have come to feel that I know intimately relatives that I have never even met. And I have come to know different sides of relatives that I thought I knew inside and out.

Second, they are informative. Though I studied the great depression in both high school and college, none of the facts recorded in my history books bought home the devastatingly harsh realities of that period in our country’s history like my father’s stories of survival during that time. His tales of hopping freight trains, standing in soup lines, and working for the CCC made me feel like I was there. And who, over the age of forty, does not have a story to tell about the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated? These stories make the listener feel the impact of that tragic event far more that a mere recitation of facts can.

Third, they interpret events. In my story, The Punishment, my father takes me into a back room, at my mother’s request, and administers a fake whipping. For many years, I thought that my father did this as a way of making a fool out of my mother. As I put the pieces of the story together, however, I came to realize that he had actually engineered a scenario that would allow me to see the compassionate side of my mother. It is this interpretation of events, and the resulting bond of respect and love that developed between my mother and me, that is the focus of my story.

Fourth, they nurture community, and this can be bad as well as good. Nazi stories about atrocities committed by Jews created a community of hate that nearly destroyed an entire race in that country. Stories about atrocities committed by whites against blacks in the segregated south created a community of shame and outrage that lead to the Civil Rights Act being passed in 1964. I have personally seen communities brought together by the compassion evoked by stories told about a person or place. In one instance, the community created by these stories saved a teacher’s job. Recently, a television show called America’s Most Wanted was saved by the community of respect created by the stories shared about criminals who had been apprehended as a result of that show.

Fifth, they possess remarkable healing powers. I must admit that I used to think the healing aspects of storytelling were pure hogwash. Then my mother died suddenly. My grief was compounded by the fact that I had never had the chance apologize for an argument that I had with her the night she passed away. A grief therapist suggested that I use my storytelling skills to help me heal. Devastated and with no where else to turn, I took her advice. I wrote The Radio, a Christmas story that illustrated my mother’s self-sacrificing and unconditional love for me. That did not help much (I never doubted my mother’s love). Then I wrote The Bobby Pins, a story about a birthday present that I had given my mother, the first birthday present she had ever received in her entire life. That story was exactly what I needed: it made me realize that my mother knew that I loved her. Our argument was just one moment in our relationship. It did not define what we felt for one another. Realizing this restored my sanity.

Sixth, and to my mind most important, family and personal stories inspire the listener to become a storyteller as well. Who has not listened to a personal tale being shared without being reminded of a similar event in his or her own life? A few summers ago, I shared some of my personal stories with students of the Storytelling Institute at Southern Connecticut State University. “We have had many fine storytellers here during this session,” one of the students confided to me, “but I did not realize that I, too, have stories to share until I heard you tell your personal stories.” A storyteller was born that day. Indeed, it was listening to Linda Marchisio tell her personal stories at the first annual Tellabration in 1988 that made me realize that I was a storyteller.

Personal and family stories are inspirational, soothing, and infectious. They can both illuminate the beauty and expose the beast among us. They give us an unequaled opportunity to examine who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. Through them, we can effect changes in both ourselves and the world around us. Happy tales to you!