from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven

Lore adapts to altered circumstances and lifestyles, and to cultures and environments other than the times and places where it had its roots. The familiar may be comfortable, but youngsters also listen eagerly to new twists in a myth, another version of a familiar legend, the results of experiments, and of trials as well as the joys in the human experience.

In storytelling, a culture's traditions, mythology and values offer opportunities to insert a sense of history into the tale, and add context to interactions among the family's constituents and the continuity to its generations. Excessively repeated, they might appear as frayed and corny platitudes. Yet, within the majority of families, a culture's mythology, traditions and values retain their relevancy and often, their majesty.

Tradition passes history to a new generation on what happened to the family over the years, and, to the extent possible, the reasons. Grandparents' stories and lore convey facts and interpretations about customs, events and personalities and how they became part of the family's structure. Tradition supports the family's sense of generational continuity.

Social and cultural awareness can provide sanctuary for education, law enforcement, science, sports, health care, religion, and more. They encourage the evolution of concepts, principles and systems that civilizations need to make life livable and enjoyable. Awareness includes what is wrong with the way things are, as well as what is right.

Values are what it's about: the bottom line. Values, however, are a mixed bag, and passing them along through stories, lore and memoirs is a matter of memory, selection, circumstances, and emphasis. Values might include: stimulating a sense of self-esteem in others; consideration for another's sensitivities; respect for life; repairing Planet Earth; knowing the differences between pity, sympathy, compassion, and empathy; striving to be honest and fair; and respect for institutions and laws but being willing to act within the law to change those no longer suitable for the common good. Grandparents (and parents) often prefer to stress personal proclivities and biases in passing along family values. Values add substance to awareness and tradition.

If, at first, you have qualms about striking out with your own memoir or family history, try giving your version of a well-known myth, legend or folk story. They already have a well-defined plot, characters, and settings. You can replace and rephrase parts with how you would like the story to appear. Use the stories and essays in this book or the public library as models or points of departure for your storytelling letters and experiments.

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