Monday, July 25, 2011

The first time I learned that I was a storyteller

When my oldest son was in grade 2, I talked my way into his classroom. In kindergarten and grade 1, I had been welcome to help prepare crafts, but generally it was clear that a) I would need a babysitter for my younger son and b) parent volunteers were supposed to help with the practical stuff by cutting and pasting and supervising. Somehow, when Cary was in grade 2, I made contact with his teacher and found a welcome.

Both my boys were born in October, and Cary was born on the 30th, so Halloween was an important celebration at our house. I don't much like most of Halloween themes and I dislike anything gory. Also, my boys were being carefully raised to avoid violence and horror. So Halloween would have been a challenge if I hadn't been a student of Irish fairy and folklore. One of the earlier forms of Halloween was Samhain (pronounced Sow ween), a night when the borders between the worlds of the living, the dead and the fairy became thin enough to cross easily.

All the really good stories I knew for Halloween came from Ireland and they were all written about 1900. They were exactly the right mix of scary and intriguing and funny for 7 year olds. They just couldn't be read in the dialect in which they were written. So in order to share the stories, I learned them and then I told them.

I didn't know anything about modern day storytelling schools or guilds or festivals. I just knew I had stories to share and reading wouldn't work. So I walked into a room of grade 2 students, and stood at the front and said, "Let me tell you a story. . ." and magic happened.

As much as my kids loved books, all kids loved stories that were told from the heart, stories where there was no book between the teller and the listeners. We all jumped into the stories together, and met the pucas (pookas) and leprechauns and Sidhe (pronounced she). We all laughed at the incomprehensible spelling of words that could never be sounded out. We all dreamed and sighed and at the end, just for a moment, were silent.

That was the first day in about seven years of telling stories at schools and festivals and guilds. At one time, I knew about 200 stories that I could read through just one more time and then tell to groups from a handful to an auditorium full.

The first time I learned I was a storyteller, I had stories to share and a roomful of children willing to hear me say "Let me tell you a story. . ."

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