Once in a while, my father would pull out his old school books, read a passage from Aesop's Fables and translate it for me. When I was struggling with a situation at school - an unkind teacher, a bully, a faltering friendship - my dad would take out his book and flip to the story of the wolf and the lamb (a tyrant makes inept excuses to commit violence), or the fox and the grapes (admit failure, don't get soured by defeat). Recently, I asked him to name his favorite and he answered "The Fox and the Sick Lion." A tale about watching the footsteps of others to protect your own path.
My mother was a better storyteller than my father; in fact, she was fantastic. Her stories were told from memory--she didn't care for books at all--and she spoke of cats running castles, good daughters and evil sisters distinguishable by a star on the temple or a donkey tail sprouting from the middle of a forehead. In every story, characters had to fight the good fight and battle weakness, cowardice, laziness or straight up malevolence. She would tell me the stories while she ironed, or when she sat down after cleaning the house from top to bottom.
"Can you tell me the story about the sisters in the kingdom run by cats?" I would plead and depending on her level of focus and energy, she would start in: "A long time ago..."
A long time ago, good battled evil. Today, the conflict hasn't changed.
We are spinning quickly through space, the planet rotating to face toward and away from the sun every day, and night has fallen across the globe. According to a recent Amnesty International report, our world saw an increase in atrocities, hate crimes and violence last year. As if I needed to remind anyone. I went to bed and woke up heartsick so many times, I lost track and tumbled into deep sadness. Much of what was happening was a tripwire back into the world of unprocessed grief. I listened to the On Being interview with Pauline Boss on the Myth of Closure on repeat to work calmly through the idea that this sorrow also stems from (and is rooted in) a multitude of life experiences--remembered and forgotten.
The tales we tell and the stories we write still matter, just like they always did.