Our Parents Raised Us as Storytellers

An ode to little me

I remember how growing up I had two favourite pastimes.  One of them was watching movies with my dad.  We had a ritual of going to the video store, browsing the movies, then after we'd each make our selection, he'd pick which movie to buy.  Then we'd go home and watch it.  It was awesome.  My father exposed us to James Bond, westerns, musicals, and all types of movies, until we were old enough to discern for ourselves and choose what we really liked.

My other favourite pastime was bedtime stories with my mom.  She would read to me about tin soldiers lost at sea, lazy lions, and all kinds of tales.  Because she did this, I loved reading long before it was something I had to do as a part of school.  Eventually my mother and I were reading books that were more advanced than the set books that I brought home from school.  She'd let me get away with not reading the school books that I found boring, because she knew that what I was reading was better for me.

My sister with a book

I never thought about it until recently, but now I know that these small things that my parents did turned my sister and me into storytellers.  Today I'm a writer, and my sister is a filmographer and actress.  Our career paths are the direct result of our parents exposing us to things we were interested in at a young age, and supporting us in our chosen career paths.

It also helped that we were exposed to so many generations.  My grandmother, then in her eighties, came to live with us from Croatia, and she was full of stories.  When I had to write historical essays about World War II or post-WWII Europe, I'd sit down with my dad at the table and make notes of what he told me.  He was like a living textbook.

Our mother, although less eager to share stories of her own, played a huge role in our literacy.  She refused to talk to us in English after others advised her that we would struggle in school if we didn't understand the language.  She disagreed and so my first exposure to English was on T.V. and in nursery school.  Before that, I knew Tswana, Croatian, and Zulu; all of which were spoken in our home.  I'm glad my mother made that choice.  Rather than limit our understanding, she chose to nurture our learning.  I still remember today how she'd flash neatly cut-out word cards in front of me to teach me my English vocabulary.

I also remember how once I sat with a group of kids (in Grade 1 or 2) and someone asked: "How do you spell people?"  I spelt out "pe-o-ple" and the whole group laughed about how I thought that "people" was spelt with an "o".  I was so angry and sure I was right so I asked the teacher when she came around to spell it for us.  She repeated what I'd just said.  The kids stopped laughing and then said nothing.  I expected an apology, but never got one.  That was the first time I ever thought to myself: "I'm surrounded by idiots."  I'm less judgemental nowadays, because I've realised that idiots can make wonderful characters in stories.

Me and a friend in a high school play

My sister as part of a high school play

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Maja Dezulovic

2 comments:

  1. So true, whatever our parents taught us, are forever part of our make-up. You are such a solid, respectable and adorable person, Maja! How can one follow this blog of yours? I don't see a 'follow me' button.

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    1. Hi Martie. I actually never thought to add a 'follow me' or 'subscribe' button. I'm still figuring it out. I've managed to place a 'Get Blue Daisies and Purple Grass Updates via Email' section in the top right though.
      Thank you so much for your support!

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