It’s the Short Stories that Define Us…Not the Life Novel

Dear Reader:

Like so many writers before me…there comes a time in one’s life when thoughts turn to writing that great American novel. Realistically…those are far and few between….but I once had a writer tell me that storytelling was just as important….just remember to let oral stories be your legacy…your gift that you hand down.

After I retired (before I was diagnosed with breast cancer) I was still doing a lot of storytelling around the state and loving it. I never thought twice about giving out copies of the stories to teachers so they could share them with their students. The best teachers are the best storytellers.

So hopefully, perhaps, some of these stories are still being shared and passed down to generations of students…I will never know…but that is okay…as long as they still bring pleasure to future decades of learners.

I think if I were a teacher now, in these anxious times…I would tell story after story after story…to my students…imaginative stories to help them forget the challenges of daily life and the changes that affect so many families. And I would tell them true stories of heroes and heroines, young and old, who made a difference in their lifetimes…during their own personal “troubled” times.

It wasn’t until I discovered the blog and the daily opportunities it gave me to share stories from my own teaching days, creative stories, children’s stories, faith stories, true stories of my life with all its up’s and down’s…that I knew I had found my venue.

The blog suits my writing style best…because it keeps me on my toes listening for comments on programs to spark an idea for a post or lyrics in a song, or a faded memory from my past, a piece of conversation, or sharing a hope for my future.

Sometimes I feel like my blog posts are humorously  similar to Jerry Seinfield’s comedy show about “nothing.” A little retired school teacher writing about “nothing”…just sharing her daily observations and thoughts on life.

Yet, as we talked about earlier this week…out of “nothing’ comes sometimes, the greatest “somethings.” It is so reassuring to me when I throw a crazy thought out there in cyberspace…one of you will respond by telling me you once shared a similar experience or thought the same thing. (I’m not so crazy after all????)

But perhaps the greatest book I ever “assembled” was my mother’s “Memory” book after dementia starting robbing mother’s memory (at an alarming rate) while at the Presbyterian Village. The occupational therapist suggested I compile a book of pictures and descriptions/of family and their connection to mother. So I made a pictorial time-line with photos of all of us growing up…plus mother’s parents and siblings…cousins, etc.

I started it off with the anecdote on “The Bumblebee Can Not Fly.”

Underneath I wrote an inscription for mother that read:

“Thanks mom, for beating the odds and raising three small children as a single parent with a single hand…who never thought she couldn’t and flew anyway.” Pioneer Stock! 🙂

From the time I gave the Memory Book to her… it never left her sight…the nurses told me it was the only time she got visibly upset …if it wasn’t by her bedside at night or in her wheelchair each day. She looked at it continuously. When I came in after school…even after she had started grappling with my name…she held it up and pointed to a picture of me and smiled.

It was the greatest gift I ever gave her…besides loving her completely and wholly.

I caught a five minute excerpt from the old television program- The Waltons…Friday afternoon. John Boy was in New York City for the first time in his life…presenting his first novel to a publishing company…the editor was asking him to reflect on what brought him to this moment…this prompted his re-telling (from flashbacks) of all the writing struggles that had preceded… until that very moment in time.

The greatest obstacle had been when he had finished his first novel a couple of years earlier and then tragedy struck…the farm house caught fire and his manuscript went up in flames. He felt completely defeated and ready to give up. As hard as he tried he couldn’t remember how to re-write his “masterpiece.”

It was his father who sat him down….and said, “Son…you know how hard it has been for me trying to rebuild the old homestead…harder than I ever thought possible. Why? I was trying to precisely duplicate the original home and I kept failing. When I finally conceded that it was time to make changes and go forward with a different look…everything fell into place.”

“You can’t go back and re-write the same novel you did before the fire because, son, you aren’t the same person you were before the fire. Life experiences change us…you must start over with a new novel written by the man you are becoming at the age you are now.” 

When I look back at earlier posts I wrote ten years ago…I realize the same thing…I am not completely that person anymore…like a puzzle… more layers and pieces have been added to my life and my writings reflect these experiences. We should never grow stagnant…but change with life itself.

So until tomorrow…

Little glimpses into our daily lives present a person’s character more visibly than any novel of a lifetime can. We are our moments.

“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh


Yep…it’s time for our “Rabbit, Rabbit‘ good luck monthly refrain on the first day of the month…the ‘dog days’ of August are upon us…but to be perfectly honest…July has been so “doggie” I don’t think August can give us any more or less than we have already experienced this hot, hot, humid summer.







About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to It’s the Short Stories that Define Us…Not the Life Novel

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    So thankful you found your voice in your blog
    ..a daily blessing …love the memory book idea. When Mother went from assisted living with a small apt to skilled nursing and she shared a room I took all of her pictures out of the frames and made 2 collages that I hung on the bulletin board near her bed. It stayed there several years and I added to it …and went she west to “Glory ” I brought it to my home where it is today….


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