Thinking about story . . .

April 19, 2010

I have been thinking about story today, about what qualities I attributed to my mother and her story telling, and how those qualities differ from the way I tell stories.

I suppose all this pondering is to be expected since my mother just died, I am a writer, and I am in the mythic land of The Continent, Europe, the wellspring of my mother’s most treasured stories—whether they were her own spun from memory and imagination and shared round a table, listeners held rapt by her words, eyes, gestures, or those of the writers she read, stories set in Europe.

Somewhere in all this pondering is a convergence of knowing and understanding, and I could feel the edges of it scraping up against my heart as I rocked and rolled through Tuscany today on a regional train from Florence to Siena.


I imagined the stories my mother would tell of the stone houses dotting the countryside, the lives lived in them, the gatherings and family intrigues, food cooked and shared, friends welcomed, days spent working the earth. She would paint it all with vivid details of gates and paths, flowers and furniture, plates of cheese, bottles of wine, hearty laughter, colorful clothing.

But these are not my stories. I can not imagine them, have not lived them, do not want to live them. I only wanted to imagine them because my mother told them, because I got to watch her lips work the words, her eyes enliven the images with some private dream of possibility, her hands paint the air the color of sunset.

And now she is not here to tell them.

Where then does the power of her stories end?

Where does mine begin?