On Monday, my son Jim and I recorded an interview with Story Corps. When we drove into the library parking lot in Arlingotn, VA, we saw the trim Story Corps air-stream trailer parked at the curb. Inside, it was outfitted as a spiffy recording booth with wonderful sound equipment and a comfortable place to sit for conversation. The women in charge and the welcoming surroundings established a very friendly environment that put you right at ease.
Jimmy was the interviewer and I was the storyteller. We did not pre-script our 40-minute conversation but rather let it roll after he asked the first question—which was, "So how did you become a storyteller?"
We talked of storytelling, family stories, genealogy and how storytelling can restore the family storytelling that once took place at the lost dinner table. I talked of Finding Gus, my one-person show of finding my lost grandfather, and he asked me about my trips back to Charlotte, NC, to retrace my childhood footsteps. And we spoke of my husband Jim and how his interest in genealogy was the catalyst in firing my interest in investigating the family history where I find many of my stories.
We laughed as we remembered our trip to Hallenberg, Germany where Jimmy and his wife Monica and Jim and I touched base with the roots of the Schoettler family. I particularly remembered seeing Jim and Jimmy sitting with cousin Josef and a Schoettler elder, Edvouard (80ish), and noticing that the four men all had the same hands. Its an image that stands out in my mind because it gave me such a glimpse of the fact of family relatedness.
Jimmy was a skillful interviewer and our conversation flowed freely and easily. We had wondered if 40 minutes would be too long—it wasn't—in fact, it was not long enough.
At the close of the interview we signed permissions for broadcast if they found anything interesting in the tape and they gave us a CD to copy for our family members. Another copy will be given to the Folklife Archives at the Library of Congress.
I was grateful for sharing the experience with my son and for having this lovely recording for our family.
With my husband Jim's passing in March, I am so conscious of missing the sound of his voice that it is a comfort to have a recording of mine in conversation with Jimmy to pass on to our grandchildren.
My recommendation—if the Story Corps air stream comes to your area by all means apply to schedule an interview. Share your story.