Nearly a decade ago, I guess it was, that I first heard Kathryn Tucker Windham telling a story on the Sundial Writers Corner on WLRH. I can’t remember which story it was, but anyway I was hooked on her. I took to the internet to listen to her stories wherever I could find them. I even played them for the English classes I was teaching at the time to show them what it meant to tell a good story.
She seemed like the most interesting person I never met, and never would because she died either just before or just after I began to appreciate her.
She had that southern accent that I love. The kind I’ll never have because I live too far north. She’d been a journalist, an author, a photographer and a storyteller. Everything I’ve aspired to be. She believed in ghosts. I found in her a kindred spirit all around, though I really knew very little of her.
Though I’d listened to her storytelling and watched YouTube videos of her, I had never read any of her books. I hadn’t thought of her much in a while, but last week I stumbled upon a blog that is kept up by her daughter and I read a story about how she would take her kids to look for shark teeth and arrowheads. I was happy to be reminded of her.
I set to work shopping for her written work, because I can’t be a real fan of someone if I’ve never even read a thing they’ve written when they’ve written so much.
I found an autographed copy of A Serigamy of Stories on Etsy for eleven bucks. I got it in the mail yesterday and a great joy overcame me . Inside, in her own handwriting, it reads, “For Lenita and Noll (or Nell?) With a serigamy of good wishes, Kathryn Tucker Windham. 1/28/94.”
Almost 26 years ago she held this book in her hands. It’s strange to think about.
I sat under my cottonwood tree and read the preface, where I learned that Serigamy is a made-up word used in her mother’s family. That’s a nice coincidence because my own Mama has a lot of made of words of her own.
The first chapter was about her front porch growing up. But like any good southern story, it often strays from the front porch, telling not only about her mother’s front porch cushions and playing paper dolls on the front porch, but also about Miss Jodie who worked at Bedsole’s Dry Goods her entire life and made chicken pies so good that Windham’s brother and friends snuck out of the homecoming sermon to steal the pie off the food table and took it into the woods where they ate it in its entirety.
I know I like good storytellers and recognize the good ones so easily because I grew up listening to my Mama’s stories. She inherited the gift. I know that because I’ve witnessed it in many of her family members and always regret that I myself did not inherit such colorfulness. Mama can tell a thousand stories in one, but usually makes it back to her first point in time.
That’s what this book reminds me of.
In a way I’m not so sure it’s good for me to read such books. I already feel like I’ve missed out on the good ol’ days, and her writing makes me feel it even more so. I don’t think most in my generation will ever know what it’s like to spend so much time on the front porch with the family, or have characters about town that you know so well you can write a story about them. Interesting people seem scarce nowadays.
I mean none of my friends will ever have the opportunity to describe the first time they had indoor plumbing.
I fear, in our old days, the most interesting thing we might have to talk about is how we can remember our first smart phone. That isn’t very interesting at all, and I’m sure I’m just being dramatic anyway.
At least I have that story about the time I got bucked off a Shetland pony. I guess I’ll have to tell that one into the ground.