On the Importance of Southern Storytelling

Watercolor painting of strawberry plant and stack of letters
Illustrations by Judy Jamieson.

By Ann Dorer

A few weeks ago, I just happened to tell—from my point of view—my 5-year-old granddaughter Maggie about the day she was born. I explained how I saw the nurse place her in a clear plastic crib right beside a viewing window. I told her how I stood there and looked and looked and looked. I said that as friends and family came in, they would join me at the window to see her precious newly born self, but after a while, they moved away to visit with one another. But not me. I stayed there and “looked and looked and looked.” I ended the telling of this little incident with, “Then all of a sudden, you went ‘Achoo!’ So I got to see your very first sneeze.”

Later, Maggie would say to me several times, “Anna, you looked and looked and looked at me when I was born, didn’t you!”

This took my mind back in time to something Southern author Lee Smith told me when I interviewed her for an article I wrote about her for Southern Lady*. I asked what had influenced her to become a writer, and she noted that one influence was her mother. “She was one of those Southern women who can—and did—make a story out of thin air, out of anything: a trip to the drugstore, something somebody said in church . . . ”

I have decided that I will no longer just happen to tell my grandchildren a story.

From now on, I am going to do it on purpose.

Watercolor painting of roses

Former editor and consummate Southern lady Ann Dorer shares her reflections on life in our beloved region every few weeks. See her essay on Becoming a Southern Lady for more of her thoughts on the feminine characteristics we love to celebrate.

*“Author Lee Smith’s Trip Down the River,” Southern Lady, Summer 2003, pages 52–53.