Before writing, family history passed from generation to generation through complex storytelling. Thousands of years ago it was easy enough to tell your children not to throw stones at the lion. Much more effective was the passionate telling of a story, around a camp fire, of what terrible things happened to the little boy who threw stones at the lion. Through storytelling not only would the child understand the cause and effect of such behavior, he would also be provided a tool to instruct his own children when the time came. In current times we have plenty of opportunity to learn through books and film that a certain behavior will have consequences. Yet, storytelling remains an important part of passing a family’s culture and experience through the ages.
One Christmas during the time our family was living in Japan my father bought two handmade porcelain china dolls for his brother’s two pre-teen daughters. The dolls were fairly expensive and unique. He lovingly packed them in shipping boxes and mailed them to his brother’s home in Oregon along with a letter to each niece. My parents were excited about the gifts they had sent their nieces for Christmas and hoped the girls would appreciate and enjoy them.