This I Believe

Jennifer - Seattle, Washington
Entered on December 20, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that I am made of stories.

I believe that my stories tether me when nothing else does. To family. To place. To spirit. When I was four, I began telling stories of a mythical place that I called rainbow land. The way I told it, rainbow land was a magical place, a place where the living was easy. I told my mom and dad that I could access rainbow land from three places- the farm where my father grew up, the park across the street from my house, and Taos, the northern New Mexico town that we traveled to every summer. All I had to do was stand in wait for a rainbow to reach down and take me there.

My father taped me telling stories at this age. He was an audio visual man with a penchant for documentation. Two years ago, when my father lay in the back room dying, I listened to some of those tapes. My small voice scraping against the microphone, words just spilling out of my little PJ wrapped body. I spoke like a river- easy, constant, steady. I told stories that seemed deep and taken from somewhere important but I also told inane little diddys that seemed plucked from underneath my nails, or scraped up from the bottom of my shoe. One in particular that I remember was about building the perfect crib for my older brother. This was my long winded way of calling him a baby. I could hear my Dad snorting in the backdrop, getting a kick out of my indirect insult.

But the most striking thing about these tapes is that my telling didn’t yield or break until my father took the mike out of my hands. I just kept talking. Like it was the only thing keeping me there. Like I was born for it.

When I got to be a little older, I began writing the stories down. I figured out somewhere along the way that you can’t expect everyone to want to hear what’s inside of you. You can’t turn yourself inside out all the time and expect to be liked. So I picked up my pencil and I wrote some of it down. As I got older, though, I became impatient with writing. I felt frustrated by its limitations. My hands couldn’t keep up. There were so many other things to do, anyway. I adopted an attitude of futility. Words are like boxes, I’d say. Language is what separated us from life, I’d muse. I’ll write when I’m old and can’t do anything else.

These last years, though, I’ve been feeling too full, like I’m holding on too hard, carrying the weight of something dying. All the untold stories pushing against my ribs, closing in around my throat. Some of them sit cloistered around my heart and just burn. Listening to those tapes, hearing that river coming out of me, I understood.

I am made of stories and stories are meant to be told.