A Rumination on Who Owns a Story

It may well be the case that I have more stories to tell than I tend to think of myself as having. I’ve lived a relatively sedate life–which is good, because I do not handle excitement well–but some attention has still managed to attach itself to some of the little vignettes I’ve put together and put out in this webspace and others. They’ve tended to be more or less about me or things I’ve seen or experienced, and I’ve worked to anonymize others in them to the extent reasonable. (Talking about my daughter as my daughter only hides her so much, even under a pseudonym, but I’ve had hundreds of students, so “a student” could be easily hidden, for example.)

Ah, to be so fancy.
Image from Merry Farmer’s website, used for commentary

One problem I run into as I consider bringing out some of the stories from my life that have stuck with me is that I am not sure they’re mine to tell. Those that had been narrated to my by those now gone are among them; do I have the right to tell one grandmother’s stories when four of her children are still living and I am not the eldest of her living grandchildren, or should I pass on my great uncle’s wisdom or “wisdom” when his own kids and grandkids are still around?

More pressing, of course, are those that bear in on the yet living who would recognize themselves in the stories. Admittedly, some of that issue is fear; I know I do not come out well in all of the stories I could tell, and I know I am not the only one who would not. (Honestly, how many of us are proud of everything we did as kids or younger adults?) I live again where I grew up, and I am not the only one who does; some of the folks still around might well take exception to having things dredged up, even under pseudonyms, in a place where a causal search of newspaper records would provide some telling links between people. Some of the issue, too, is that I may well not be the best person to tell the story. I might have watched while others acted, for example, or acted in such capacities as kept me from seeing larger movements and contexts. (Indeed, I know for a fact that I did that a lot; I still miss a lot of the surrounding information.)

And then there is the biggest issue: do I remember things well enough to tell them? For most of the more nearly interesting parts of my life, an ever-increasing distance exists from then to now. (As I note above, I live a sedate life; I could add sedentary to it with ease. It does not make for interesting stories, in the main.) Details fade, and it is in the details that stories live; without them, what can I offer? Without them, should I seek to offer? And if I cannot offer them, well…I might own it, but selling it would not be possible.

Helping me have more time to write will help me write more and better, you know…


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