I wrote, not too long ago, about why stories are so important. For centuries, storytelling has been the way in which we carry on our legacies and histories. They are how we learn and remember. Storytelling has always been how I learn best. You can lay a list of facts in front of me and I may or may not remember them. But, if you weave those facts into the form of a story, their truths will most likely engrain themselves within me for always. I will remember.
Stories were how I fought my dragons as a child. How I still fight them. They were fuel for my creative brain. Watching the characters of my favorite books and movies struggle and triumph or to witness them battle and fail, is where I found the courage to keep fighting myself. And it’s also within these stories, where I found the power to heal.
Both of my grandmothers were gifted and incredible storytellers. One passed many years ago when I was still a child, but the other is still spinning tales for her great-grandchildren. And wonderfully, even as adults, her children and grandchildren are still captured by her stories. It is a beautiful thing to witness. I can still hear both of their voices echoing in my ear at bedtime; grand tales whispering of both caution and possibility. Today, these stories still ring with wisdom learned and imagination ignited. I am grateful to carry this gift from my grandmothers within me.
In my early twenties I taught for a while as a preschool teacher at a wonderful Montessori school owned by my best friend’s mother. My favorite time of day was always Story time. I reveled in it. I wanted so badly to make books come alive for these tiny humans, so ripe with wonder. Their imaginations fascinated me and it was always such a joy to hear them replaying the stories during recess or free time later in the day. Now, I love reading to my nieces and nephews and it fills me with such incredible warmth to watch them get captured by the words and images, just as much as their Aunt Chelsey still does. And I can never deny them when they ask for more. I’m a sucker that way.
I still find myself wandering into the children’s section of my favorite bookstores and libraries, running my fingers over the spines lining the shelves. The potent magic of these books continues to linger for me and I am thankful I have never lost my own wonder, like so many do as adults. The other day, I found myself doing just that; wandering through the children’s section of my local Barnes and Noble. At a table, tucked into a corner, I spied a girl reading to her little brother. The little girl couldn’t have been more than eight or nine to the boy’s four or five. His bright blue eyes were wide with wonder as he hung on her every word; gasping quietly at the particularly dangerous parts. She was even creating different voices for each character, just as my grandmothers used to do…just as I do. I found myself snared up in her animated reading. I felt a little guilty spying on them, but it was just too enchanting to tear myself away. So, I listened for a few minutes longer, hiding behind a bookshelf. Not long after, a scribble began to take shape in my head. In a world full of distracting and rapidly evolving technology (not necessarily a bad thing in some cases), I find comfort in the fact that storybooks still have the power, like nothing else, to capture us so completely, to spark our imaginations, and give us the wings of possibility.
With that thought in mind, I headed back to the cafe where my friend was reading. I wanted to remember, in words, what I saw in that little boy’s face while he listened intently to his sister. I hurriedly jotted down the scribble below on a napkin, in the hope that I could capture, in some small way, at least a glimpse of his curious spirit. (**Note – the picture above happens to be of me reading a story to my cousin Michael, on our Grandmother’s couch. Coincidently, I was probably eight or nine to his four of five.**)
Sharp mind and discerning ears,
Keen eyes absorb bleeding pages…
With an open heart,
The child listens.
Dark and light,
Peril and triumph…
Drip from words alive with truth and imagination.
From these drops of blood,
from deep within,
a breathing creature that cannot be stopped….