So far I’ve enjoyed every moment of my time at the South Carolina Writers Workshop. I’ve heard some fascinating stories, met some interesting people, and learned a huge amount of information. I’ll write more on these topics later. Tonight I just want to share a quick message about the importance of sharing stories. Everyone has one (several, in fact), and chances are good that there’s someone out there who needs to hear it.
Although today I was busy attending sessions and chatting with old and new friends, I kept an eye out for a woman I met yesterday. Sadly, I never saw her today, not even once. I hate to think she might have gone home early, upset and disappointed by feedback from a critique. I think that’s probably what happened though. I know her first name but not her last; otherwise I’d contact her and tell her to please please please not get discouraged. I’d also tell her that, based on what she told me yesterday, someone needs to hear her story. Someone would benefit by it. They can’t however, if she keeps it to herself.
A few years before my mother’s death, she casually mentioned that she’d been doing some writing. When I probed a little about the nature of her writing, she said it was just “family stuff” and went back to watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman on television. She loved that show, and it was obvious that she really didn’t’ want to be interrupted. I was curious, however, and asked, “You mean genealogy?”
“Not really, no. More like a novel. That way I can change the names so that no one will get offended,” she said.
“Oh….Well, where is it? Can I read what you’ve written so far?” I asked.
“No, not yet. Be quiet now. I want to see how Dr. Quinn handles this.”
Caught up in my own drama, I didn’t ask her about ti again. Nor did she ever volunteer any more information. Twelve years after her death, I can’t count the number of times I’ve chastised myself for not pursuing this. Six hundred and forty three maybe. Or maybe more. I’d give just about anything for a look at what she was writing, and I can’t figure out what happened to those pages. Did she destroy them before her death? Did someone throw them out, thinking they were trash? The fact remains: those words, that story, is gone.
The loss of my mother’s story came back to me yesterday as I listened to the writer who was feeling a bit blue over her critique. Fervent about her book but discouraged by a editor’s comments, she was ready to pack up and go home. I doubt that she’ll ever read this, but if she does, I hope she’ll realize the importance of leaving stories for her posterity. I hope her daughter won’t be missing her on a Saturday night 12 years after her death and wishing that she knew more about mother’s life.
And you. Don’t you have some stories to pass along to your family? Pat Conroy says the most beautiful and powerful words in the English language are, “Tell me a story.” Let’s do it. Let’s do our posterity a favor and share some stories.