Saturday, May 13, 2006

How Many Ways Can You Tell a Story?



At one point yesterday as we wound our way up Mt. Lemmon outside of Tucson, my husband’s cousin Carol said to him, “Can I ask you a personal question?” When he agreed with some surprise, she said, “Do you think your sister was developmentally challenged?” Nobody in his family had ever talked about this before, at least not openly. We had an honest and open conversation about what could have caused this behavior we had all noticed for years.

There were essentially people from 4 different generations in our little group yesterday: Carol’s mother who is 74, David who is 59, Carol who is 48, and Rachel who is 22.

I started to understand why so many stories have inconsistencies as they talked about my husband’s family. They had all seen people and incidents through different eyes.

There was lots of talk about Zelda, now 97, who had never married. Supposedly she was abused by a boarder at their small dairy farm. Who was this boarder? We all speculated. Zelda, who had a mastectomy at 35 and was somewhat bitter forever after. Was that really the reason?

Oral history is so fascinating because it always has a hint of historical fiction as the current population let their memories shape the history in ways that inevitably hide the absolute truth. But this is the stuff that families continue to pass down because it is simply how their stories get told.

2 Comments:

Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

All kinds of history fascinate me. You'll notice that even two different observers of "well documented" books on history will tell different stories. I believe there is no such thing as one truth. The world is complex beyond belief. Wow.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

"No such thing as one truth" -- YES! I think it's just a different lens under which people or events are viewed. Sort of the way a prism changes one's view of an image.

10:42 PM  

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