If you’re a regular listener of “Morning Edition” on National Public Radio (NPR), then you’ve probably wept and laughed – but mostly wept – after listening to the weekly short segments of oral histories known as StoryCorps.
NPR marked the 10-year anniversary of StoryCorps this past week, featuring daily segments of oral histories NPR had aired in the past, including “where are they now?” updates. It was almost too much to bear.
Because I love StoryCorps, and I hate StoryCorps.
Sometimes the stories fill my heart with joy over the triumphs of the human spirit. Other times my soul is battered by stories of life’s cruel turns of fate.
For five minutes, I listen with fulsome sentiment, resenting the manipulation but accepting it with Stockholm syndrome-like fervor.
When the segment is over, I wipe my eyes, curse, and carry on with whatever I’m doing, comforted in the knowledge that the StoryCorps segment will only haunt me for a day or two, then I’ll have a few days of peace before it returns the following Friday.
I’m powerless to stop the cycle!
StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit that records and archives oral histories throughout the country. It began in New York City as a stationary “StoryBooth” unveiled on October 23, 2003 in Grand Central Terminal.
By 2005 it evolved into a mobile oral history project, with the first MobileBooth tour launched in Washington, DC. Today, StoryCorps has recorded over 50,000 interviews in all 50 states, with over 100,000 people participating.
There are usually two people talking, sometimes three. They record for about 40 minutes, but I’ve only ever heard the 5-minute features on NPR.
Thank God. I couldn’t handle more than five minutes of the emotional overload that StoryCorps dishes out like it’s nothing.
Here’s a sampling of what NPR pummeled me with every morning this past week, to “celebrate” 10 years of StoryCorps:
For A Father With Alzheimer’s, Life ‘Came Down To Love’ – Ken Morganstern shared some of his last memories with his daughters during a 2006 StoryCorps visit. When the father started off by saying in a shaky old-man voice, “I’m 81 years old. Is that right?” I reached for a tissue.
A Father, A Daughter, and Lessons Learned – Wil Smith took his infant daughter with him when he went to college. This man had to HIDE his baby from college authorities so he wouldn’t be kicked out of school. He raised his baby in secret in a dorm, attended college and worked at the same time. I choked up and wallowed in feelings of underachievement.
A ‘Not Normal’ Family That Knows How to Laugh at Itself – In 2011, Laura Greenberg said she scared her husband. Now it’s his turn to dish. Ok, this story of the odd-ball married couple was cute and light. Until the wife joked that most StoryCorps stories made her cry – which made me think of the father with Alzheimer’s… oh no…
‘Never Say Goodbye’: A Love and Life Kept Vivid – We revisit Danny and Annie Perasa’s story. So they saved this story for last. Of course. Because these two decided to get married during their first date. Because Danny left Annie a love note on the kitchen table EVERY DAY for almost 30 years. Then Danny died.
StoryCorps wants you to think it’s some benign little project to capture tales of “everyday” Americans living “ordinary” lives. Then why, after almost every segment, I have to blow my nose and fix my makeup?
Talk about false advertising.