I was on my way to the University of Charleston to speak to a class about storytelling and Appalachian folklore. I wondered what they might want to know. My approach is usually to ask if the students have any burning questions or something they've always wondered about and then go from there. My group on this morning was unusually quiet--perhaps that was because they were, for the most part, freshmen, and were not yet used to speaking out in class.
Once we started a few began to talk; one told a story of things that happened after the death of a beloved grandparent, another of some old sayings she'd heard in her family. I told several stories and sang a couple ballads and talked a bit about Ruth Ann Musick who was one of the primary gatherers of West Virginia lore and stories from the 1940's until her death in the 1970's.
I enjoy speaking to groups like this. For many, it might be their first exposure to a storyteller; for others it is a revival of family memories or of stories they've heard in their neighborhoods. For all it is a trip to another time and place when stories and the storyteller were the primary bringers of news and entertainment and all gathered around to listen and share.
Tomorrow I'll be making new stories as I bake fruitcakes with my sisters in Virginia. We are creating our own family legend of the eight sisters who would gather every year to make the recipe their mother used to make, a cake packed with fruit and nuts and goodness and laughter. I hope that our children and grandchildren will carry on the tradition when we are gone, so that this story will be one written over many, many years and not confined to the memory of only the few who took part.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.