I am a storyteller.
I suppose that’s part of why I started this blog, to share the stories of my life, of the things that happen to me, and of the interesting happenings that occur when you’re not paying attention. I tell stories all the time – to friends and family, in small talk, to co-workers and acquaintances. Essentially everything I say is a story; it’s a side effect of being an introvert, I think, that small talk does not come easily, so everything I say is part of a bigger story, or an experience I’ve had. But stories are hard, and take time to develop, and can’t be jotted down in a few spare minutes here and there. They are molded and shaped and whittled until they can be repeated and passed on and shared.
This past Christmas I found myself telling a story. I was frantically finishing the gifts for my nieces and nephews while the rest of the family played board games. Sewing and cutting and gluing at my own little table in the corner of the kitchen, here come two little heads, up from the back room where they were supposed to be “watching a movie or falling asleep.” My niece and nephew, three-year-old twins, certainly didn’t want to be left out of the merriment upstairs.
Now, I so throughly dislike surprises that the fact that the twins had effectively spoiled their Christmas surprise did not bother me in the least. But having three-year-old twins at a table with scissors and glue and needles and thread, that was a trick. So I told them a story.
A real story, one that has been passed down, that I learned as a child. A story from summer camp in the Adirondack mountains. When the mountain thunderstorms stymied our evening outdoor games, we would trek back to our cabins, gather pillows and stuffed animals and blankets, and hunker down on the chapel floor, fire crackling, as staff and counselors wove tales of “a long, long time ago” and “far, far away.”
I loved these stories, but more than that, I loved the story telling. That you could stand in front of a rapt audience of 10-year-olds, repeating tales that required nothing but your words, your actions, and their imagination. Especially now, in a landscape saturated with technology and media, to capture attention with the spoken word, to weave a tale, to spark the imagination – what a wonderful thing.
The story I told my niece and nephew was by far my favorite. It’s a story of the innocence of childhood, of treating things simply and not over-thinking. It is about a very large bubble that visits a kingdom and traps the king inside. All the knights in the kingdom can’t free the king, but the day is saved by a little child. It was told by the great storyteller Jay O’Callahan on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood many years ago. And though I never saw that episode, I’ve heard the story many times and it has stuck with me.
This little adventure reminded me how much I love storytelling. It reminded me about the power of the spoken tale, the beauty of imagining a story for yourself, and the immediacy of telling a story. The story is told once, then it drifts off into time, perhaps to be told again and again, but never again to be exactly the same.
So I started searching for other stories. I’m not sure I’m ready to craft my own, but perhaps I will add to my repertoire – so that the next time little not-sleepy heads pop over the side of my work table, I can take them to a new kingdom – one I haven’t told them about yet. And the stories can go on.