I have always loved a good story. My love of storytelling began with my father and my grandmother. My father told me stories about his time in the South Seas during World War II where he was stationed in the Philippines, Fuji and several other islands. On one of those islands, he encountered friendly Pygmies who loved to exchange goods for chocolate and cigarettes. During one of these exchanges, my father traded for a parrot and another time for a little dog. He taught the parrot to talk and he taught the little dog to do tricks. This was the company entertainment. My father was the radio operator and he was called Radar. One, because he was the radio operator and two, because this last name ended with r-a-d-e-r, so that was his nickname. So you can imagine when the television show M*A*S*H came out, I was amazed how much my father had in common with their Radar! Anyway, he taught the parrot to say, “Hi George!” ( which was his first name) and “Sorry Johnson!” Johnson was the last name of his bunk mate. They spent a lot of time playing checkers. My father was unbeatable. No matter how hard he tried, Johnson couldn’t win a game! He would play several games before getting so mad that he would throw the board up in the air, checkers flying everywhere! It was at this point the parrot would scream, “Sorry Johnson!” his wings flapping while sitting on my father’s shoulder. This made Johnson sulk, but the camp got a big kick out of it. As each soldier would pass by him, they would say, “Lose again, Johnson?” Soon, the parrot picked up on this and began crying, “Lose again Johnson! Lose again Johnson!” My father would laugh and laugh when he told that story. So would I. That was one of my favorite stories, mostly because of the way my father told it, by imitating the parrot and that it still made him laugh! Sitting on his lap as he told me that story was one of the best memories I have of my father. When he was my Daddy and I was his little girl.
The other storyteller in my life was my mother’s mother. She and my grandfather lived next door to us. My grandfather was famous for his stories, so much so in fact, people still repeat them to this day. But like my father, my grandmother would sit me in her lap as well and tell stories just to me. Her stories were much different. She would make them up with me. As we went along, we would decide what would happen next. They always started with, “There once was a little girl named Janie…..( which was my nickname), and it would go from there. I guess my grandmother was my first creative writing teacher. She was great at making up a short story and they always had happy endings. We would giggle and she would hug and squeeze me and tickle me until I yelled laughing, ” Stop!” Then we would have milk and cookies and she would tell me about her mother and father and her life growing up with five siblings and a widowed mother. She also helped me learn to read. She was an avid reader and I remember sitting and reading books with her.
I hope that in today’s world, children still get to have storytellers in their life, where they sit in a lap and delight in the experience of the heartfelt and skillfully crafted story.