When I visited Phoenix over Christmas, there was only one thing my four-year-old niece wanted to do when we got in the car to go somewhere. She wanted to tell stories. Those of us in the back seat all had to take turns. A lot of what we came up featured a little princess named B—– or a little prince named J—— and were far from what the Grimms or Perrault would come up with. But I was under pressure and most of the stories I know are not appropriate for anyone under the age of, say, 18. Once I’d related the stories of how I adopted a couple of my pets, I was out.
There are so many great story-telling traditions around the world. My people, centuries ago, were skalds. And everyone has fairy tales and folklore in there heritage. There used to be people capable of memorizing thousands of lines of text. (There still are, but there used to be a lot more than the few there are now.) If nothing else, Disney is so prevalent that we can all half-remember one of those tales. We, at least in the West, rely so much on books that it’s too easy for little stories to slip through the grey matter unless you study to be a professional spinner of tales.
Even though I’ve never trained as I story-teller and I don’t usually spend time around kids any younger than college freshmen, I could’ve kicked myself because I couldn’t come up with something I remembered from my own childhood. But then, the only stories I can really remember my parents telling me were chapter books for older children. I can’t remember any further back. Any fairy tales I’ve read since I became an adult are definitely not child-friendly. I suspect that I am so bothered by this failure is because I a) value stories so highly personally and b) really hate the feeling of blanking when someone asks me for something I know that I know. It’s like those awful moments when someone asks for a good book to read and I forget every book I’ve ever read.
All I can really do is arm myself with little stories the next time I visit Princess B—– so that I don’t embarrass myself again. I need something pocket size that I can pull out when she orders that we all take turns telling stories in the back seat.