Blog The Magic of Story
“Ralph clung to the little wooden raft as he rode out the storm sobbing that the pelting rain had washed away his mud. Suddenly the rain stopped and a gusty wind soared through his makeshift sail tossing the raft onto the river banks. Ralph landed face first and was once again covered in mud and dirt.” I grew up hearing bedtime stories that my father had constructed in his head. Tales of Ralph the pig, Skippy the dog, Chief the horse. My favorite was Ralph; the pie stealing raft riding swine that was always getting into mischief. Every night my brother and sister and I would settle in for a story that swept our imaginations away like magic. It was a ritual. After one was finished we plead for more and my father would stall until he would dramatically say, “Just one.” Stories were a seamless fabric of my childhood that far reached into my adult life. Stories stimulate our creative selves.
Like memories, stories leave us with something; a cry, a chuckle, a consideration. They are magic weaved into words that plop you in another world another time another being. Every idea begins with a story. Einstein once said; “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” I became a teller of tales long before I became a writer. My sister and I would create “shows” for our parent (the audience) based on a story; usually a queen and a princess were involved. Outdoors, (back in the day when it was safe to play unattended by an adult) my favorite game was explorers. We’d either pretend to have discovered a foreign land or an unknown galaxy. I worry that children now are too stimulated to use their imaginations that their imaginations will atrophy like an unused muscle or wither into ashes and blow away.
During my brief stint as a nursing instructor if the students announced they had completed all of their skills for the day (temperature taking, medications, etc.) they would ask if they could go study. “Absolutely not!” was my answer. Go find someone to talk to and bring me back a story. They would have to share the tale at post conference; a time after clinicals that we gathered to discuss the day’s events. We were at a rehabilitation/Nursing facility with mostly elderly patients. The students were jarred to discover Mrs or Mr so and so was a farmer during the dust bowl or a veteran of WWII or made wine in the cellar of their San Francisco home. The stories changed the way these students treated their patients—they saw them as a person with a rich past rather than a mere patient. As I always said, older people didn’t cruise out of the womb using a walker.
When my children were small, I really got cooking with the storytelling. I told stories about Ole Mr. Moon (there was a song that went with it), a star named Mattie, and the most beloved was the “Birthday Elves.” These were the happiest elves on the planet they danced every where they went. When it was a child’s birthday they would tip toe in while the children were asleep and decorate with bright balloons and streamers that sparkled when the sun came up. (It was only a few years ago that I finally stopped decorating—the girls were in college.) These are priceless memories that never cost more than a few bucks to create and I got to be a child again--something I love to do as often as possible.
I remember begging my mother to tell me about when she danced all night in Philly in her strapless dress and red lipstick. Or how she had parties when my grandparents left and locked my aunts in the attic! Or when she was a little girl swinging on the front porch waving to the soldiers returning from war. All of us yearn to hear the stories of the past that become part of us. Those stories that fill us with grief we can re-write examine the facts of why did this or that happen. There is freedom in stories you are no longer limited by time, place, or person. If I want to write a story about a fearless woman who flew on the backs of elephants—I can. I am grateful to have come from a long line of storytellers who have inspired me. As for Ralph, I have ressurected him in the upcoming series The Adventures of Ralph the Pig; where he will be gallavanting about finding new ways to get out of a pickle. So cheers to you and yours Share the magic tell a Story!
If you have a burning tale to tell—please share it here or on my website www.karendevaney.net.
Causes Karen Devaney Supports
Eve Ensler and any organization that deals with issues supporting women and children and the advancement of their education.