A Free Day - A Nudge from the Red Tent

Urban Landscape, e.schoettler, collage

The sun is up
Birds are back
Could it be that Spring is finally springing?

A Nudge from The Red Tent

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant has been gathering dust on a top bookshelf downstairs for at least ten years. I started reading it once but the turned down page corner confirms that I only read to page 9. I started reading it again a few days ago. I am not sure yet whether I will finish it - - but I am underlining in the 4 page Prologue. Anita Diamant has pricked a nerve that needed a prick.

In the 1980s I was diving deeply into genealogy waters - looking for "my women" and finding things I never knew about those "survivors" who nourished my deep North Carolina tap root. I wanted to tell my family, especially my daughters,  about them but only Jim listened to the stories. The others found the chorus of begats boring. Then I stumbled upon storytelling for grown-ups.  I squeezed Jim's arm one evening when we were listening to a fine storyteller tell about her father - "I am going to do that - - and they are going to come."

That's when I say I became a storyteller - although I was born and raised by women who were good North Carolina talkers and I learned to tell stories as they told them.

The second sentence Diamant writes for the character in the Prologue is, "my memory is dust"- meaning her story has not been told.

She goes on -
"If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully.
Stories about food show a strong connecton. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows the details of her mother's life - without flinching or whining - the stronger the daughter."

There follows a page on what women and daughters share over the chores they do together and then she rocked me again.
" But the other reason women wanted daughters was to keep their memories alive."
The character says " I carried my mother's stories into the next generation ----"

Then, " I wish I had more to tell of my grandmothers. It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing." 

The Red Tent is a mid-rash on the life of the Biblical woman Dinah whose story is untold.  Diamant's reconstruction and re-telling is brilliant. However, I doubt I will finish reading Dinah's fresh story. Anita Diamant has made me realize that I have a lot of work to do in a shortened time. To tell my story - and to refresh the survivors' stories I have gathered.

I owe this to my daughters. My grand-daughters need to learn their maternal line stories first, maybe later they will have interest in mine. I don't expect my grand-sons to have much interest at all - maybe their wives will be curious as I was about Jim's family.

Grateful to have storytelling to use as a vehicle for sharing the stories.  Perhaps,like Diamant, I will say something that will spur others to look for their stories.


Anonymous said...

I read _The Red Tent_ for a faculty book club, and missed their voices when I finished the book. I pre-ordered Barbara McBride and Corinne Stavish's _Hussies, Harlots, Heroines: Shady Ladies of the Bible_ and got it just in time for our discussion of the book.
Excellent stories!
I'm shocked that you dog-ear pages, which is the lingering effect of the two years at St. Patrick's school . . . but it's your book ;-) If it were mine, there would be a post-it stuck on the page.
Hugs! <3

lil Gluckstern said...

This is a very eye opening post. I've read before that women are the carriers of their culture. Now I want to examine more of the facts (so-called ) of my mother's
and see how they translated into my life. I have read the Red Tent and was spell bound by it. Lots of history there.