Tales of Southern Minnesota: The Power of Storytelling

It was evening. We were in a hotel room in Minnesota, my daughters tucked into bed after a long day. My husband settled in for the night. I quietly opened the door and left the room, heading for the lobby where I knew I would find some other members of my family. There were my aunts, uncles and my dad, seated around a table. I quietly joined them. Words swirled around me; cadences rose and fell, soft laughter filled the air. I soaked in tales of Southern Minnesota; listened to the challenges of life without running water. Like Jack and Jill, my uncles and aunts walked up the hill to the relatives’ house to fetch drinking water. Cistern water was used to wash dishes and to bathe. Words continued to flow and the current changed. Stories of schoolhouse bullies emerged and flying snowballs filled the room; the twins banded together to defeat those who picked on them. Storytelling continued late into the night, and I sat, listening.

Some of these stories I had heard before, some were new to me. I had emerged from my hotel room expecting to join my elders and hear tales that would transport me to their youth. That day, the day we buried my mother, was full of pain and sorrow. Listening to their stories soothed my body and soul.

 The field behind our hotel in Minnesota
If one of those oxen was blue, would you look for Paul Bunyan?

Long, long ago, this is how stories were told. Can’t you picture a fire in the middle of a tipi, with Native Americans gathered around to listen to their elders? Or a log cabin, fireplace burning, stories spinning around the room to while the evening away?

Oral traditions have preserved wonderful stories. Without them, Disney would have no material to draw on. Mother Goose would have no rhymes to lull babes to sleep. Our past would seem dull and uninviting without these stories to share. We laud the efforts of the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and others who recorded those stories for us. Even now authors retell those favorite tales from long ago.

In the age of information and technology, we still love to tell and to listen to stories. My sisters and I will tell each other about the exciting or irritating things that happen to us. My daughters demand both stories that are ancient, such as The Three Little Pigs, and newer stories from my own past, like the one where I was stung by a bee when I was three. My husband tells stories about “Little Squirrel,” and my specialty is telling “Little Goose” stories. We all tell each other about our day. When do we find the time? A few minutes here and a few minutes there. On walks to the park, or when we are stuck in traffic. During dinner time, and right before bed time.

What is the last story you told? Tell me!

Record the stories of your own youth; visit Mommy’s Piggy Tales to find out how!

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5 Replies to “Tales of Southern Minnesota: The Power of Storytelling”

  1. One of my earliest memories is of being at a cabin by the ocean and my father is telling stories, his hands swooping, carrying me away.

  2. I can't seem to remember stories very well, other than silly childhood things I did. My kids do love those tales and they also love to hear about things they did when they were little!

  3. Everything I talk about turns into a story. Going to the grocery store isn't just an FYI, I went to the store. If you get hungry, there are crackers." Going to the grocery store is a 15 minute diatribe about how I thought I saw big foot in the parking lot but later realized that it would be impractical for Big Foot to spend any amount of time in south texas. My family is a bunch of saints.

  4. This is great!!! What an awesome written piece. I am now having the joy of listening to my young adult children re-tell their childhood memories…sometimes it isn't at all how I remember it, or it is so stretched you would expect to see their noses grow…but then the stories become our stories and the laughter…our memories!

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