“I’ll tell you a secret. Old storytellers never die. They disappear into their own story.”—Vera Nazarian, author.
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“Tell a story,” I encouraged my feature and column writing students at Stephen F. Austin a couple or three decades ago. “Everybody has a story.”
“But Mr. Aldridge,” I was challenged once. “You’ve been around longer. You know more people, you’ve seen more. Where do we get ideas as students?”
“Family, friends, folks you’ve just met,” I said. “There’s a story in everyone you know and everyone you meet. Your challenge is telling it. Tell their story for them. Keep it, and their memory, alive.”
Fast forwarding fifteen years found me in the newsroom again. The gig this go around was the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame up in Carthage, where Willie Nelson and Ray Price were in town to announce inductees for that year. After making the news official that it would be Kris Kristofferson, the pair of country music legends hung around to tour the museum, perusing the exhibits and swapping memories.
Following at a respectable distance, I took pictures and listened to them talk. And I gained another story. One about watching the two entertainment icons swapping their stories.
“Look at that,” Willie chuckled with a backhanded slap on Ray’s arm. “You remember that time in San Antonio we played that beer joint, and he was with us,” the memories continued.
And that’s the premise of my missives. Recounting memories. We all have stories to tell. And the important thing about them is that we keep telling them. I’ve always preached the importance of storytelling. But I’ve amended that sermon lately. And the best way to make my point is … with stories.
Stories like favorites about my dad. I’ve shared before that he was a quiet man, never offering advice, and how I learned from him by example. He strayed from that norm twice, that I remember. Once was about love and how what seems like love sometimes isn’t. The only way to know the difference is time,” he offered. “You can’t rush it.”
The other was making decisions. “I can tell you what to do, but you’ll probably do what you want to do. You’ll learn like everyone else, and like I did. The hard way by making mistakes.”
Then there are stories about my good friend and “partner in crime” through life, Oscar Elliott. The story about driving somewhere one afternoon, I forget where. I just remember telling him I was moving from the newsroom to the classroom to try my hand at teaching journalism.
“Here’s what you tell your students,” Oscar said. “Tell them communication skills are the best education they can get. With communication skills, you can be successful in any field. Tell them about your good friend since the fifth grade who never took a college class, who has an office in Dallas reporting to the vice-president of a big company because he can assess any situation and communicate it to anyone from the machine operators to the company ‘suits’ in the office.”
About my Center friend Vance Payne and his exemplary customer service skills. The story about the time I needed rubber mat material. He produced a dusty leftover roll from the warehouse of his hardware store, “on the corner, on the square.” With a smile, he asked, “How much ya’ need?” As he rolled it out to measure, I said, “three feet. How much would that cost.”
“Five dollars,” was Vance’s answer.
“That’s a good price.” I acknowledged. So would six feet be ten dollars,” I countered while counting my money. “No,” he said, still grinning. “That will be five dollars.” Confused but curious, I quizzed him. “So how much for the whole roll?’
“Five dollars,” he said again. “I need to get rid of that roll.”
There are many more like those above, so many. Far too many to tell in this space. But all with one common thread. Swapping stories last week with long-time good friend Mark Henry, I allowed as how for all the years I’ve been sharing stories about good old days and good old friends, I had just come to a sobering conclusion.
Far too many of my stories are now ending with the realization that I am the only one in the story who is still here.
And that is why we should all share our stories with as often as possible. Storytelling is our obligation to the next generation. Keeping alive, the events and memories of the people with whom we made those memories.
Before you and I disappear into our stories.
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, The Fort Stockton Pioneer, and The Monitor in Naples.
© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and ‘A Story Worth Telling’ with appropriate and specific directions to the original content.
One thought on “It’s important to keep telling them”
I’m a big fan of your weekly posts, Leon, but yesterday’s was so meaningful that I had to say hello and tell you how much it resonated with me. Not having enough time is only an excuse. We all make time for things we think are important. Thank you for reminding us of that fact!