My Mom, the Storyteller

Most writers seem to come from families of voracious readers. I am not one of those writers.

Mom and I at a pub in Galway, Ireland. No books in sight.

Mom and I at a pub in Galway, Ireland. Not a book in sight.

Unlike me, my mother would much prefer a good Masterpiece Theater or some witty conversation to reading a book. In fact, she has an intrinsic suspicion of anyone who would rather have their nose in a book than enjoy some laughs over a cup of coffee or a cocktail (preferably bourbon in a tall glass). But what she is, and what I hope might have rubbed off on me a little, is a great storyteller.

Margaret Flanigen Carden can make a story come alive like no other. Maybe it’s that she’s 100% Irish–or maybe because she is a Southerner– I don’t know, but her stories take on a kind of legendary quality when she weaves a tale.  I could swear that I was actually there for some her childhood antics with the characters that populated 1930′s Nashville–Hawk and Minnow, Big Mommy, Tweet, Tomato Foot, Sugar Berry, Sam, Whoopzie Barazini, Mumbles . . . I could go on and on and on.

Mom and her brothers and sisters and Aunt Irene. Mom is the one pulling her little sister's hair.

Mom and her brothers and sisters and Aunt Irene. Mom is the one pulling her little sister’s hair.

And like any truly great storyteller, my mom is authentic and fearless. She never shies away from telling a good story, even if it shows her in less than beatific light. Like when she got caught (at fourteen!) by the nuns smoking the Blessed Mother’s Grotto at St. Bernard Academy.

Mom at her 8th Grade graduation.  N.B.-That is not the same grotto that she would later smoke behind.

Mom at her 8th Grade graduation. N.B.-This is before the cigarette incident.

Or the story about her French professor at Vanderbilt who began every semester with, “Zee blondes, zey get As; Zee brunettes, zey get Bs; and zee boys–zey work for what zey get.” The tale of her going to said professor’s house to convince him to give her little brother a passing grade is one of her best. And then there’s the one about her sorority sister, Gussie, who tried  to convince her to join the Marines before they were “drafted” because “at least they have cuter outfits.”

Mom obviously received a B from the French professor. And no, she and Gussie never did end up in the Marines.

Mom obviously received a B from the French professor. And no, she and Gussie never did end up in the Marines.

I didn’t realize the power of Mom’s stories until I went to college and found that friends begged to hear more about Ida and Irene’s Christmas Parties (with soggy Ritz crackers and plenty of “sploe”) or the epic tale of Pawsy’s moved desk. It was thrilling to see that my pale imitation of her stories could keep my friends in stitches. From Mom, I learned that all good stories, whether Shakespeare or Brothers Grimm, need a beginning, middle and a definite end.

Move over Mad Men--its Margaret and Jerry in Spain. There are some really good stories from that trip (what is that smoke swirling above mom's head?!)

Move over Mad Men–it’s Margaret and Jerry in Spain. Friends, drinks and few cigs = great stories.

There are so many more stories, but it isn’t nearly as fun without Mom’s distinctive Southern drawl. So, on this day that we honor our mothers, I would like to thank Mom for the gift of telling a story. I hope I do you proud.

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About elizabethcarden

A wife, mom and writer of historical fiction (but sadly, not of thank you notes).
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One Response to My Mom, the Storyteller

  1. Laura says:

    loved this! :)

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