Grandma and the Storytelling Shell

This morning I listened to an interview with author/illustrator Lee Edward Fodi in which he mentioned that his interest in writing and illustrating books goes back to when he first picked up a crayon. He also said that, for him, the visual images always came first. I was thinking that, although I loved to draw as a kid, the written story always came before the visual image for me. Then I remembered the pictures I drew for my grandma.

For most of my childhood, my grandma lived several hundred miles away, and I only saw her a couple times a year. We used to write letters back and forth, and for a brief period, we also did something special. I would send my grandma a drawing, and she would send me back a story to go with the drawing. The story she created from the picture would be a total surprise, and I always waited for it with great anticipation. (I still have at least two of those drawings and their accompanying stories –perhaps I’ll post one here when I find it.)

My grandma always encouraged my interest in being a writer, but I’d forgotten how much she modelled storytelling herself and inspired creativity by her approach to life and the things she had around her. There was always a mood of fun around my grandmother. She had a big encompassing laugh, sang lively French songs, made paper dolls with us, played cards, and always had a lazy-Susan tray of Bugles, Cheezies, chips and dip at the ready. She loved Hawaii, dressed in a bright floral muu muu at home, played Hawaiian music on her stereo, called her grandchildren by Hawaiianified names, and always had little shells and tiny toys hidden in her flower pots. And, there was the story-telling shell.

My brothers, sister and I loved to curl up next to my grandma while she held the storytelling shell on her lap (like a mother-of-pearl bowl), traced lines and patterns with her finger, and told stories about children who sailed the sea and had encounters with pirates. It wasn’t so much the content of the stories that made the stories great, it was the personality, warmth and love with which my grandma told them.

So, some stories begin with pictures, some with words, and if your’e lucky, some begin with a storytelling shell.


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9 Responses to “Grandma and the Storytelling Shell”

  1. Joanne Says:

    I remember grandma’s story-telling shell. I keep my own story-telling shell beside my bathtub and when the kids were little I told them stories while they were having a bath…

  2. Rochelle Says:

    Thanks for sharing, it stirs the memories.
    She also liked to tell stories of her past, growing up with a large family and traveling across Canada. She was a people person and could talk with anyone no matter who they were. She always treated people with respect.
    Yes, I too remember the shell. She would look into it like it was a crystal ball and tell you a story.
    I appreciate you sharing and seeing the photo.

  3. Jacqueline Pearce Says:

    The stories she shared about when she was a girl travelling from Quebec to BC were also big inspirations for me. I prompted her to tell them again at almost every visit.

  4. Crafty green poet Says:

    sounds like she was a wonderful inspiring person

  5. Heather Says:

    Lovely post. The storytelling talent runs in the family.

  6. Jacqueline Pearce Says:

    Thanks Juliet and Heather. As well as inspiring, my grandmother was the splash of extroverted colour in an otherwise introverted family.

  7. Lee Edward Fodi Says:

    So very cool, Jacquie–and it all comes full circle for me. Reading your post reminds me of how inspiring my grandmother was to me, not only as a person, but as a story teller in her own right.

  8. Rochelle Says:

    Introversion in a positive way as obtaining our energy from within.

  9. J-P Antonio Says:

    Wow! That’s a great post. I wonder if your Grandmother’s Quebec heritage has anything to do with it. I think the story-telling gene runs through that land. My Quebecois mother turned our home into a collection box of superstitions and fortune-telling. One day I figured out that she was making a lot of it up but that didn’t stop me from wanting to have my cards or tea leaves read. I think it all comes from Quebec’s staunch Catholicism. There was a lot of religious oppression but there must also have been a wonderful sense that the world is full of miracles and that anything is possible.

    I hope you can weave the story of your grandmother into one of your own books some day. She could become a much loved character for many.

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