Rainbows and Storytelling

…I still wonder where rainbows come from.

Thus ended each story about Willie the Elf that my grandfather used to tell.

That phrase inspired the name of this blog and some of my writing. You see my grandpa was an amazing storyteller and Willie was my favorite character.

In March 2012, I had the pleasure of watching a video of several of his stories, with the one about Willie being the best (in my opinion).  The time was 1988 when our family was celebrating his 80th birthday for a weekend.  Here is a photo of me with him and his wife, my grandma, a few years before that.  This is how I remember them looking.

In looking through some videos, my mother happened upon this amazing treasure.  It was like our own little time machine.  We were taken back to another time and another place and it was amazing!!

The story we watched was my absolute favorite!  In the story, Willie travels to Knoxville, Tennessee, and finds the Sunsphere which was built for the World’s Fair in 1982.  The building looks like it has a big, gold ball on the top.  In the story, Willie is thrilled since he thinks he has found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  And as a result, he will finally get his answer of where rainbows come from.

He ends up getting stuck and his faithful friends come in and help him down, with a mug of hot chocolate to calm his nerves.  He then realizes that it isn’t the pot of gold but isn’t too upset about that fact.  He then goes back to his cabin in the woods and again says, “I still wonder where rainbows come from.”

These characters were brought back to life to me as I listened to the story with my parents, husband, son, and father-in-law.  I hope to watch this sometime with my sister and brother but am afraid we’ll all be crying too much.  I was laughing and crying tears of joy and remembrance.

I cannot describe the excitement of once again seeing my grandfather tell one of his stories.  The voice was the same as I remember and he looked exactly as I remembered. And, I remembered every word of the story, even though I haven’t heard it in years.  A few items were a bit different, but it was mostly the same.

The rest of us, however, have changed quite a bit. We all looked like the 1980s –with the clothes and the hair.  I saw my parents then at the age I am now. (Isn’t that amazing and profound in itself?)  And, I heard laughs of family members that I have heard my entire life.  Seeing my siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends was such a treat!  Our own buried treasure, that’s for sure!

Since this video was made, we have lost many dear people — such as my grandfather who passed away 8 years after this video was recorded — but we have also added so many special loved ones to the family through marriage and children.  The circle of life has continued as it always does.

My family liked and still likes to celebrate birthdays and be sure to have time together.  Our times were filled with fun and laughter, stories, and hours of singing as my amazing aunt would play each song on the piano from memory.  We were all very different people, yet loved coming together.

I am honored to be a part of this amazing family.  We have different faiths, jobs, political views, and walks of life, yet we did and still do love each other and are thrilled to see one another when we can get together.  We have learned, for the most part, to agree to disagree.  And, to me my life has been so much richer for these experiences.  You can learn so much if you are willing to listen to someone who has a different view of life.

Now, my siblings and many of my cousins have children so a new generation is growing up with the family values, stories and songs.  I hope that this videotape can help make these stories relevant to them as well.

Ian has been told about Willie and loves the stories.  I try to tell them but it isn’t quite the same, well, not to me anyway, but he loves them as I used to and still do.

He has asked me what Willie looks like.  “I want to see a picture of Willie, Mommy,”  he told me.  What he doesn’t realize or completely understand is that Willie was a creation in my grandpa’s vivid imagination and he looks different to all of my family and everyone who hears the stories.  How do I explain that to him?

One time when I was a child, I drew a picture of what Willie looked like to me, so I can show him that.  But, he may have another idea in mind.

I changed the banner at the top of my blog in honor of Willie’s quest to find answers about something he was passionate about.  In his own way, Grandpa was teaching us about following our bliss and our passion.  I didn’t realize that when I was a child and young adult since I was too busy enjoying the fun of the story.  But, I can never thank him and my grandma enough for that gift as well as the gifts of imagination, love of writing, education, family, and love.

Because of these stories, I have always loved rainbows and still do.  Last summer, a friend who lives across the street from my family’s beach house, took a picture of a rainbow with the beach house at the end of the rainbow.  That too made me cry since that house is one my grandparents bought and our family has enjoyed.

Grandpa and Grandma, you are loved and missed!  And, thanks to this video, Grandpa, you and your stories will live on for Ian and his generation.  What an amazing blessing!  Thanks Mom for finding this treasure for us!!

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