Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bedtime stories

"Daddy, time for prayers and our story," two young voices shouted from the back bedroom. Two or three minutes passed and the little girl shouted again, "Dad-deee, come on!"

Soon his footsteps were heard in the hall and his loving, humorous presence entered and warmed the room. Both children had the covers pulled up, he would tuck them in before he left the room. But for now, he laid down beside one or the other of them on that child's twin bed, and they talked for a few minutes, the three of them, about special concerns or problems, then prayers were said together out loud, then anyone could add a special prayer about individual needs. When the prayers were done, if it wasn't a school night or one preceeding an early or extra busy day for anyone, it was time for the story.

Next came the discussion of what story we would have tonight. If he was really lucky, we fell asleep before a story decision could be arrived at, and he didn't end up telling one. Sometimes we settled for a song, soft and soothing in his melifluous baritone voice. He had a short repetoire of songs and a larger one of stories, but of course our list of favorites was fairly limited. And most wonderful of all, Daddy seemed to be able almost anytime to create fascinating new stories.

It is my great sorrow now that there were no audio tape recorders for the average household in those days and that neither my brother nor I realized what a treasure Daddy's stories were. If we had, one of us might have transcribed a few of them. As I remember, the characters were usually thinking, talking animals or fish, with humorous "Everyman" kinds of names, who got into difficult situations in very ordinary ways (as children interacting with/being led by their peers might do) and who, because of some trait which might ordinarily have been considered negative---like a little male fish who was made fun of because he was smaller than his peers---was able to get into a place which no one else could fit into and get the key or unclasp a latch unreachable by all who were larger and thus save the entire group. The stories always had a clear moral and fostered self-reliance and self-esteem, although we didn't really understand that at the time.
Unfortunately, the bedtime story I remember best and in the most detail was not one of his original stories, but the story he told most frequently. I can't remember whether he told it most often because we begged for that one, or because it was the one that was absolutely guaranteed to put us to sleep. It was a story of a colony of ants who for some reason had to move everything they had stored for winter from their old home to a new one. When the story teller gets to that point, the entire rest of the story is: "and another ant came carrying another grain of wheat; and another ant came carrying another grain of wheat; and another ant came carrying another grain of wheat;......" ad infinitum. Sometime during the repetition, we would slip into sleep and Daddy would get up and tuck us both in and go back to his evening with Mother.

These are very happy memories for me and I'm appalled that I cannot remember more about specific stories. I was so excited about this week's topic when I read it, and had great high hopes; but I don't feel like I brought it together well at all. I wanted it to be a tribute to my dad and the fascinating, educational but fun stories he created, and to the special time that was bedtime when I quite young.


Blogger paris parfait said...

It's lovely that you can still remember at least part of those early bedtime stories (more than I can say). Sounds like you have many happy memories.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Yummyteece said...

OMGosh, OMGosh.....

I always tell people about GrannyPop's ants story and those darn grains of wheat.

Took me YEARS before I realized that there was no end to that story, just the repetition of the ants and their wheat grains, over and over and over until you fall asleep.

It was the best bedtime story trick ever. Very clever of him.

3:04 PM  

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