The Storyteller – Part 1


Mother is a storyteller, a spinner of tales.  Her stories are mostly about rural Tennessee and her life growing up on a farm with a large family of eleven children.  In rural Tennessee back in the 20’s the modern world went on someplace else and people continued to live a rugged, almost pioneer type existence of the same kind that was lived by generations before them.

As a child, I loved hearing her stories and often asked, “Tell about the olden days when you were little.”  My sister and I grew up hearing an oral history about the previous generations.  We always knew about our Tennessee roots and who we were.  As we grew up, however, the stories, so remote and different from our own life, became less significant to us.  We had heard them dozens of times.

As Mother became older, probably growing increasingly aware of her own mortality, she decided to write a memoir about her childhood experiences.  The memoir was shared with family members, then tucked away in a drawer for fourteen years until my daughter, having heard about its existence from her grandmother, asked about it and it again came to light.

Our family is not famous or important.  Does the history of common people really matter?  I had heard the Tennessee State Archives might accept family histories for permanent retention. Somewhat hesitantly, I approached the archive staff with a copy of the memoir.  Wonder of wonders — the selection committee was interested and accepted mother’s manuscript for permanent retention.

Mother’s book is a simple accounting of her recollections.  I think that doing it was a way of bringing her life into focus and giving it significance.  Educated and intellectual people write most history.  My mother is neither.  Yet, by writing her memories, she made her contribution, left her mark.

She had little in the way of material things growing up in rural isolation on a farm in a poverty stricken area of Tennessee.  The family farmed, grew much of what they ate, made their own clothes, and slept in featherbeds with homemade quilts.  The richness of my family heritage is not in valuable possessions passed from one generation to the next, but in love, memories and family values, things that our society sometimes seems to have lost today.



About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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5 Responses to The Storyteller – Part 1

  1. Pingback: The Storyteller – Part 2 | Humor Columnist Blog

  2. This is wonderful. My mother grew up in the 20s as the child of an immigrant family. Her parents spoke no English. Ever. Life was so different and hard compared to anything I experienced yet they didn’t know it. I only wish that my mother or one of her many siblings had written it down. My brothers who are much older have stories of my grandparents whom I never really knew (being the youngest by a lot of years). You are very lucky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sheila Moss says:

      We tried to get her to write about more of her life, but she never did. Usually, people pass and never write a thing. I’ve heard it suggested that you get them talking about the olden days and tape it. Most older people like to talk about the olden days, but don’t want to take the trouble to write it down.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My friend tried to start a video business. It was an interview with a person covering their life and was for their family. He found that older people did not like to do it as it was like writing a will — the admittance that you are aging. It was a great product and the few that he did were great. My mother had already passed or I would have had her do it. Sneaking in a recorder may be the way to go.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sheila Moss says:

          I think I would approach it differently… like asking them if they remembered a particular incident or event in history. You want a story, not statistics. There is a project involving interviewing all Jewish people that survived WWII so there is a record. I recently visited a small town that tried to have everyone in the town write about their memories of the town’s history for a small museum. Some wrote only a paragraph while others wrote pages.

          Liked by 1 person

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