I Tell Navajo Stories…Like Grandma

jaclyn roessel maternity
Photo by Hannah Manuelito

 

I come from an open-arms people and a family who shares. I have built a career sharing my thoughts, poems, snapshots of my life and myself. But last year, I felt a call to shift into a new way of being. 2018 was a year filled with many life changes both personal and professional. While, I was focused on navigating, reflecting and rising to the challenge of being more in the moment, I was called to go inward and protect…myself.

 
Now feeling able and willing, I am trying to answer this question, “how do you begin to tell a story you are still living out?” I am not sure. Though I do know I was never a linear storyteller. I pride myself on my ability, or gift, depending on the tale, to tell story like my late nalí asdzaan (paternal grandmother). She would weave strands of background info, context and opinion together with care and ease. While I am not the master she was at this, I do enjoy this circular nature of sharing. This is something my husband tells me often, I tell Navajo stories. By this he means, I share stories which unfold sometimes leaving him confused until the end. I loved to think of my nalí asdzaan’s stories as ones you had to earn. You were tested to listen because sometimes they were long and often complex. She would share with you characters and updates in multiple threads drawing family trees and maps connecting communities across the rez.

 
And what of my story? Where do I begin?

 
When my nalí asdzaan passed, one of the most vivid memories I have of that night is waking up after receiving the news she left us gasping for air asking myself what would I do on my wedding day and the day I gave birth?

 
In the darkness of those early morning hours, the thought of facing each event without her, physically hurt my heart. But what I know now is I didn’t have to worry because I would feel her. She would be there, and so would my late nalí hastiin (paternal grandfather). I would feel their power charge through the day I saw my husband Warren ride into our homestead on a horse for our wedding. I would feel the energy of my ancestors come to bless our beginning as husband and wife, in the powerful winds that carried sands that whipped across the land.

 
She would be with me as I carried our first born in my body. I would hear her in the wisdom my mother shared with me during my pregnancy. In the advice my mother-in-law passed on to me. I would feel her in my sister’s hands as she massaged my body during labor. I would hear her words in the prayers my brother shared while we were in the delivery room. Even in the pain of this moment I could feel the sweet like honey presence – I could feel her with me. I could feel her blessings at work in my life.

 
While I do not know how to tell this story, I recognize why I wanted to keep things close. Last year meant so much to me because I was able to hold it with both hands, an open mind and heart overflowing with gratitude for getting to experience it all. My husband and I marinated in each transition – engagement, new job, news of new life, wedding and birth. Having emerged from our fourth trimester I feel ready to slowly release parts of this story, as an offering. I hope in beginning to tell it, the parts that were hard can begin to heal. This part of my story – the trauma – is hard for me to articulate now but I know with time, even that will begin to melt away like snow.

 
What is powerful is knowing because I am still living this, I don’t have to share everything now. I want the telling of this story to be savored. In the same way, this revealed itself to us – day by day, minute by minute waiting for the arrival our baby being…our son.

Published by Jaclyn Roessel

Jaclyn Roessel was born and raised on the Navajo Nation. She is founder of the blog Grownup Navajo. She co-founded the blog Presence 4.0, a Native style blog. She also co-founded the multi-media project schmooze: lady connected. Owner of the card company the Naaltsoos Project, Roessel is a philanthropist, American Indian advocate and museum professional.

11 thoughts on “I Tell Navajo Stories…Like Grandma

  1. You have asked and answered a powerful question in today’s social media world. Your perspective of protecting ones story that is being lived is complex, yet powerful. Stories evolve and new endings are added just as new beginning…you once again have shown us …and not just told us. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your new life’s chapters.

  2. I am so happy for you and all of the wonder of beating a new life, that could only come from the combination of the two of you!
    Your Naalie will always be inside of you,
    Guiding you with all of the wisdom that she has shared with you over the past years
    You are a wonderful piece of her going forward as will your son also be, thanks to you!
    Hugs to you and joy for the life you will have going forward
    Barbara johnson

  3. Maternal love becomes you, Jaclyn. Take time to experience and treasure each new day and your son’s miraculous accomplishments. I talked with your Dad at the Heard when he spoke at the Boarding School symposium. Barbara Johnson and I congratulated him on his new role as grandfather. At our request he shared a few photos from the Naming Ceremony. How content and sweet you looked standing in the background while his Grandmothers bathed your beautiful son. One day he will hear the story of this day. It will be lovingly told by you.

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