My mother once told me the story of how she watched MGM Studio burn down some of their old stages while filming the burning of Atlanta scene for its movie Gone with the Wind. My grandfather used to regale me with stories of the Marx Brothers’ antics on set and how the Prince came to visit Grace while she was making one of her last movies. My regret is that I did not pay much attention to these stories when they were told nor did I ask to hear more like them. These stories from the “golden age” of Hollywood were part of my upbringing and were stories that connected me with my family heritage. I wished I had asked more questions.
Stories, it seems, are important in imparting our familial and cultural identities. Stories are also important in their power to change things for the better.
As I have stated before on this blog, the old 1990’s television series Northern Exposure was one of my favorites. I especially enjoyed the character of Ed Chigliak, a young indigenous Alaskan whose desire was to become a film maker. He was also studying to be a shaman, and he frequently cited scenes from movies to help members of the Cicely community with their problems and issues. There is healing in hearing our stories. There is power in telling them.
I don’t know what healing would come from my family stories, but they would have provided some fodder for my own stories if I had listened more. Perhaps I might have eventually found some wisdom in them.
Columnist and humorist, Dave Lieber, in a 2013 Ted Talk said this about story telling: “So tell your story. Take the data of your life and turn it into real people doing real things and you will move mountains. You will change the world.”