Published on July 1st, 2017 | by Ann Rickard0
It was a dark and stormy night…
You can’t beat that sentence to start a story.
Cliché it may be, platitudinous it certainly is, but it has withstood the trials of time, and I reckon it is still a goodie.
This was confirmed for me recently when I started telling my grand-children stories, mostly involving their mother (my daughter) and what a disobedient child she had been when she was their age and what a rebellious teenager she turned into and so on.
The grandchildren, at ages 7 and 5, loved hearing stories about their mother as a young naughty girl, because these days their mother is a 38 year old strict disciplinarian who will put up with no nonsense from her own children. She has strict rules for them and she sticks rigidly to them.
(How she does that when I failed to achieve it with her will always remain one of life’s mysteries to me.)
But I have digressed. This started out as a column about story-telling and has morphed into a column about raising rebellious teenagers.
Back to the dark and stormy night.
After I told my stories to the grandchildren – with great embellishment and always beginning with the dark and stormy intro – I invited them to tell their own stories, invent them, make up something colourful.
I have to confess that this story-telling lark was a first for all of us as we sat at the dinner table.
As we all know, it is iPads and smart phones and television that usually control the dinner table conversation.
But on this night (not actually dark and stormy, more dusky and balmy) we were all a little surprised and very delighted to find we could actually spend a happy hour without our gadgets.
Each of my grandchildren (and I should come clean here and confess to their superiority in all things) began telling more and more elaborate stories, using their imaginations, adding layer upon layer to the ‘dark and stormy night’ opening.
Their stories took flight and the introductions went from dark and stormy to hurricanes and floods and then droughts and plagues of biblical proportions.
Night creatures were brought in the picture and then monsters (the non-scary kind) become part of the long story introductions.
We then invited the children’s grandfather (my long-suffering husband) to tell some of his stories from his own childhood.
His reply was instant and automatic. “I don’t have any. Nothing interesting has ever happened to me.”
But, of course that was not so.
There was the time when he was a teenager and owned a bee hive. For some reason he angered his bees one dark and stormy morning and they swarmed over him covering him from the top of his head to the end of his toes. Painful as it must have been all those long years ago, it made for a fabulously fascinating story for the grandchildren who sat mesmerised and hung on his every world.
By this time we had gone well into our second hour at the dinner table and not one of us had called for an iPad or a smart phone. Miraculous.
All we needed to complete this fuzzy picture of family happiness was a campfire and long stick to toast marshmallows.
But here is the question – when did we lose the ability to tell stories? To be content with just each other and be free of a gadget at the end of our hands?
For me I believe it came somewhere between the invention of black and white television and the onslaught of Facebook and Instagram.
When did we stop making up stories for our children? When did we stop telling them stories from our own lives that would interest and engage them?
Surely anyone over the age of 40, 30 even, would have a swag of stories that would appeal to young ones.
Perhaps it is time we all started passing them on.