Story without a book

I was standing in the kitchen making breakfast, just the same old morning routine that I’ve done every day for at least four years. All of a sudden, in the midst of baby babble and intermittent screams, my two oldest had a conversation that seemed to bring the whole world into focus for just a few seconds. It wasn’t anything particularly profound. I would probably be more inclined to describe their interaction as annoying, and I guess it was more of an argument than a conversation, but either way it went something like this.

“Declan, you ate two of your Halloween candies yesterday.”

“No I didn’t,” replied Declan. “I only ate one.”

“No, Declan, you ate two,” Niela insisted.

“Na ah”
“Ya ha”
“Na ah”
“Ya ha”
“Na ah”
“Ya ha”
“Na ah”
“Ya ha”
“Na ah”
“Ya ha”

Like I said, annoying. My usual response would have been to jump in at great cost to my patience and try to resolve the argument, restore friendship, throw in a little character lesson as well as a comment about how bad sugar is for you, while simultaneously wiping a snotty nose and calming baby’s screams.

For some reason, I opted to just ride this one out. It was one of those experiences when the sounds get quiet around you and you’re seeing things through a filter. It’s like everything comes into perspective all at once.

I realized that these rather mundane and sometimes annoying moments of my life are a large part of my story right now.  I’m not whining, I’m saying that happily because for those brief couple of minutes, I was able to capture the moment. I grabbed a hold of the preciousness of this phase in my children’s lives, and tucked it away in my heart.

I had another of these moments just this morning. We were running out of the door way too late to get my daughter to preschool. This time of year always brings with it the added pressure of hats, coats, extra layers, snowsuits when necessary and blankets in the stroller.  So off we went as fast as my six year old’s legs would allow, and arrived barely in time at the school.

We were on our way home and I was enjoying the peace after our frantic morning, the crisp chill of the air and blue skies when I heard some familiar words.

“Mummy, tell me a story…. without a book.”

I have my Dad to thank for this. He is a master storyteller and when my parents came to visit last winter, my children’s favorite thing to do with Grandad was to listen to a story all curled up on the couch. They would forego everything; TV, trampoline, park, dinner just to hear one more ‘story without a book.’

When Declan first started to ask me to tell him stories on our way home from school I was a bit put out. First because I was enjoying the quiet, and second because coming up with a story on the spot required effort and creativity.

Over the months, I’ve come to look forward to these storytelling school runs in which I have my sons’ undivided attention and, apparently his respect as he seems to think my stories are pretty cool. OK, so he’s six, but I’ll take it while I can.

These storytelling adventures were part of what inspired this blog. Who doesn’t love a good story? It was also one of the reasons that I wrote my novel ‘Bedstemor’. This story was primarily for my children, for my family. There are not too many stories that will inspire a person more than the one of their own life, their own ancestry.

I hope one day that my son will read my book, but in the meantime I have the awesome privilege of telling him stories, showing him photographs and sharing my own first hand experiences of my bedstemor, my grandmother Anni McCrum. These are the stories he’ll remember, the ‘stories without a book’.

~ Esther

Photo of Declan by Melissa Vanderlinden Delve Photography. Used with permission.

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2 thoughts on “Story without a book

  1. How interesting!
    A similar incident gave me the idea for my domain name!
    Back in 1985, I worked in a preschool in Hawaii.
    I would often sit outside under a large Banyan tree and tell the preschoolers stories about when I was little—just like them.
    One day, a young boy came up to me and said, “Can you please read me a story.”
    I said, “Wait a minute. I will go inside and get some books.”
    And he said, “No! No! Read me your story — the story with no book.”
    That was the first time that I ever saw myself as a story. That was revelation in itself.
    So many, many years later (last Spring), I became storieswithnobooks.com
    I never imagined, way back then, that there be an “internet” or a “world wide web” where stories could wander freely through space with no books!
    Amazing how much things have changed.

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