Friday, October 4, 2013

The Moth in Oklahoma City

This past Thursday, October 3, the world-famous TheMoth live storytelling series, brought their MainStage in the Midwest Show to Oklahoma City. I was honored to be invited to share the stage and live-tell my story, along with four other story tellers, who are so talented and captivating, you must follow and hear them on TheMoth. org or TheMoth youtube channel. “The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It has presented more than three thousand stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide. The Moth podcast is downloaded more than one million times a month, and Peabody Award-winning The Moth Radio Hour is in its seventh season."

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I fell in love with story telling through my Spanish grandmother. I'd sit on the floor in front of my Abuela/my grandmother when I was four years old, she'd curl my dark hair around her fingers in the shape of ringlets, "cochumbos," and she would tell me story after story. Hours of tales of being a little girl in South America, her childhood, her family, the people of her small village. Stories of saints and miracles and being six years old and having to outrun the bull on her father’s ranch that got loose and chased her, and how she barely survived – only finding safety by clambering up a nearby tree.

She was the queen of the short story, and I was her rapt audience. Each story a fresh one, and her words made them all come to life. When she spoke, I’d see her run, her thick long braids trailing behind her. When she jumped for that tree branch to escape the bull, I jumped with her. I’d forget to breathe as she told me how she felt the earth shaking as the bull’s hooves pounded the ground behind her. I’d squint with her as she explained how he had come up over the hill with the noon sun behind him, blinding her until he was almost at her feet.

I’d stare straight ahead, transfixed, while she pulled my hair through her comb, her stories taking me someplace else, taking me to her life. Every time, disappearing into the images she created for me.

Her stories never stopped, even as I grew older. I’d come home to visit from college and sit on the sofa next to her, and she’d begin, "When I was a little girl..." She had such a treasury stored away in her mind, each adventure told with a detailed magic that to this day, remembering them brings them back to life, as full of blue skies and green grass as when I first heard them forty years ago.

Her stories didn't come out of a book, they were from her mouth.

Parenting publications instruct us to read to our children, and I agree 100 percent with this practice, but I want my children to get lost in my life, as I did in my Abuela’s. I tell my three boys stories about my growing up, in bright descriptions. I explain about being a teen in the 70's and taking the 10 foot long coiled up telephone cord, and stretching it into the hall closet so I could have privacy with my phone calls. I tell them about the three channels, four if you counted public television, that we had and how you had to stand up and cross the room to change the station – manually clicking a too-hard-to-turn knob to a new show.

I describe hot, muggy Milwaukee summers that would make my hair spring like coils around my forehead, of how I'd go to the community pool with my two brothers, crossing the wooden slat bridge; having to hold my eyes straight up and fighting the temptation to look down between the slats or I'd imagine myself falling in the river far below. My grandmother would give us 35 cents each; a dime for the metal basket to place our clothes in and 25 cents to each buy a bag of cheese popcorn for when we’d come out of the pool, famished. One summer, we figured out that if we all shared a basket, we’d have 20 cents extra and could get two banana popsicles, split three ways.

I paint a picture for my children, so they see a skinny, brown-skinned girl with hair thicker than a broom, sitting in between two brothers on a park bench alongside the chain fence of a pool, sunburned shoulders in the days before sunscreen, fingertips orange with cheese dust.

I want my stories to play in their heads forever, exactly as my Abuela’s stories still do for me.

Because it is this vision of a little girl with the flying black braids, running as if the devil himself is chasing her and scrambling up a tree with her heart in her throat – that is the picture of my Abuela that lives in my mind forever.

I reveled in my grandmother's stories, it is with this same love of the oral tradition, that I became a supporter of the not for profit organization, TheMoth. TheMoth is dedicated to keeping alive and cultivating the art of story telling, by celebrating the story teller, the extraordinary in all our ordinary.

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Please follow TheMoth on Facebook, follow them on twitter, subscribe to their podcasts and listen to TheMoth Radio Hour on your public radio broadcast station, because we've been telling our stories since time began. TheMoth brings these stories together -- from people you'd never dream of hearing about, with stories so fiercely human, you find yourself back to feeling what it's like to sit at someone's knee, hanging on the next word in childlike wonder. Lose yourself in the magic and beauty of sharing our varied lives through laughter, tears, epiphanies, and arrived insight, all while being held spellbound -- in a story. Find out more by clicking on TheMoth through . True Stories told live.

If there is a Moth StorySLAM anywhere near you, attend. StorySLAMS are open-mic storytelling competitions held weekly in New York City, three times a month in Los Angeles, twice a month in Chicago, twice a month in Michigan and monthly in Louisville, Pittsburgh, Boston, Milwaukee, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. They are open to anyone with a five-minute story to share on the night’s theme. Attend, be a part of the storySLAM on stage or in the audience -- either way, you'll leave falling in love with the human race and the beauty of the collective experience with stories, amazing stories, told on stage.

"The Moth is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. Moth stories dissolve socio-economic barriers, expose vulnerabilities, and quietly suggest ways to overcome challenges and see with new eyes."

*The Moth is always looking for stories, call their pitch line -- just like I did -- and tell them your story, because you're the only one that can tell it. 



  1. that is so cool...a great story but the whole experience is cool....we live and grow through our what an honor to share ours when given the chance....

    1. B, the moth has StorySLAMS. If there is one near you,l anyhwere near you, please try to go. The world becomes different to you after that. Thanks so much for your support, B.

  2. I WISH, so badly, that I was there to see you tell your story. I love you.XOXOXOXO

    1. Thank you so much Suni and Andrea: I hope you go to a Moth show, storySLAM, and listen on radio, watch on youtube. They restore the love of humanity, with all of our stories. Humans are awesome creatures.

  3. It is so incredible that you have fond so many wonderful places to share your beautiful words and stories.

  4. I would have loved to have seen it. Beautiful photo of you.

  5. What an honor for you! You are definitely honoring your abuela by continuing her story-telling legacy.

    Thank you for sharing her story ... and yours.

  6. So proud to know you and to see you finding more and more places to share your beautiful voice.

  7. love this and love you.
    What an honor for you and what an honor for the people who got to hear your beautiful voice and STORY.

  8. Yes. Yes.
    Those are some of my fondest memories with my grandparents and boy do I wish that I paid more attention to some of their stories...because let's admit...sometimes you trail is not exciting...kidding :)
    I love the way you write and share her legacy with all of us.

  9. Just reading your words paints a picture I can see, feel, smell, taste.

    I can only imagine what it would be like to hear this read out loud in your voice.

  10. Jealous i couldn't be in Oklahoma City to hear your words spill over the crowd. congrats to you.

  11. I wish I could have heard this, Alexandra! But I love to read about it -- and about the ways your Abuela sparked that desire to listen to and tell stories. Just fabulous!

  12. I love this. You have a true gift of story telling. Your Abuela would be so proud.



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