Elyse Kallen, IL
Elyse Kallen is a creative writer, tour guide, amateur genealogist, and collector of an unhealthy number of hobbies. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, her career path has meandered through marketing and communications, politics, education policy, and health care, among other fields. When she’s not telling others’ stories or her own, you can find her getting lost in foreign cities, wandering around museums, writing plays and short stories, and shedding light on overlooked and offbeat history through her blog.
As a Story Terrace writer, Elyse interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.
Grandpa, Tell Me A Story
“Grandpa, tell me a story.” I clasped my sweaty hands together as the words rushed out. It was the most personal question I had ever asked the intimidating man in front of me.
Despite knowing him for all fourteen years of my life, my grandfather was as much a mystery to me as I was to him. He was always present at family dinners and birthday parties, but none of those experiences had given us common ground to bridge a seemingly insurmountable generation gap. Still, with the recent passing of my maternal grandfather, I was acutely aware that he was the only one I had left. I needed to know who he was before it was too late.
He paused for an interminable moment, his blue eyes—identical to mine—staring hard at me. Would he shrug? Scold me for being nosy? Redirect the conversation to the weather? I held my breath.
“Did I ever tell you about the time I spent 87 cents on lunch at McDonald’s?” Of course he had—several times, in fact—but that didn’t matter. I smiled in relief as he recounted again how a boss had chided him not for failing to make a sale but for not dining at a nicer restaurant.
From that moment on, those five simple words, “Grandpa, tell me a story,” became the key to building our relationship. A new piece of my family’s history clicked into place every time we visited. Through his stories, I ran around the neighborhood he grew up in, swooned at how he and my grandma had fallen in love, and met the great-grandparents of whom I had only the foggiest memories.
Sometimes, the best relationships are the ones that don’t come easily. For years, my grandpa and I fought through awkward silences, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. However, the bond we had is one of the defining relationships of my life, made all the more special because we forged it together through our family’s stories.
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