Mommy Musings: The takeaway from a grateful storyteller – Longmont Times-Call

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Pam Mellskog / Mommy Musings

While many performers gage audience appreciation by a shower of roses, applause, ovations, or even tips, a Longmont storyteller performing at area assisted living and memory care facilities measures her reach with another yardstick. Especially when she shares stories with memory care audiences who tend to listen passively without much eye contact or response.

“It happens sometimes just before I leave (a performance) that someone in a wheelchair who has been looking down the whole time looks up and says, ‘I want to be the king,’” Kathleen Santopietro Weddel, 71, said.

That a wheelchair-bound memory care resident can see themselves as a king within her story electrifies the dormant connection between them. And it reminds her why storytelling persists in teaching all of us — often through metaphor — about common ground, compassion, connection, and meaning, she said.

So, as our nation moves this month toward its annual Thanksgiving holiday, no wonder Santopietro Weddel feels thankful for her family’s storytellers — for why they shared as much as what they shared.

“My maternal grandmother had the ability to create images in her stories so that I could form a picture. Her words came out as so calculating, but so engaging. And she was so loving about the purpose of her stories because she knew certain stories would fit certain circumstances,” Santopietro Weddel said in her precise diction and warm timbre.

Santopietro Weddel’s father also often told stories — mostly from his childhood in an Italian immigrant family that settled in Denver — for the same practical reason, she continued.

“He taught me about a necessity in storytelling — compassion. So, if there was some problem or something you wanted to do, he always could share a story that seemed to fit,” she said.

Santopietro Weddel keeps a framed photo on her desk of her dad giving her a snug side hug after she finished telling him a story roughly 30 years ago.

That moment reminds her of how he valued storytelling, and how that value ultimately shaped her career as an award winning adult educator — someone who used applied storytelling to share formal instruction in the areas of health, spirituality, community, and lifelong learning, she said.

On stage, though, Santopietro Weddel usually steers clear of sharing what she calls “selfie stories” — stories with personal material — in favor of traditional storytelling which taps folktales, fairy tales, literary tales, classics, fables, etc.

Because traditional stories like these are fictitious, she said sharing them with an audience requires learning how to build an illusion to beckon the listener’s imagination enough to connect them to common ground.

“The events in a fairy tale might not have happened, but they are true,” she said. “The characters in a folktale might not have lived, but they are real.”

The magic happens through the literary device called metaphor — a word or phrase applied to an object or action not literally applicable. In this way, metaphor transfers a story from then and there and them to a story for here and now and us.

“O. Henry is my favorite storyteller because he has a way of creating images with memorable details and extraordinary language,” Santopietro Weddel added.

But her repertoire ranges as her resume suggests. She is a member and performer with the Northern Colorado Storytellers, the Rocky Mountain Storytellers, and the National Storytelling Network.

To listen, note that Santopietro Weddel plans to perform “A Wreath of Holiday Stories Celebrating Women” with pianist Dale Sherrod at the Longmont Senior Center at 910 Longs Peak Ave. from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18. Tickets cost $2 for residents and $2.50 for nonresidents. Please register by calling 303-651-8411.

Pam Mellskog can be reached at or 303-746-0942. For more stories and photos, please visit