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I don’t remember hearing bedtime stories when I was little. I know we read books, and I know my Mom probably told me stories, but I would have to ask to know for sure. Some of the books near and dear to my heart (and that I still own) are: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Someone is Eating the Sun, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Granfa’ Grig had Pig and other Rhymes without Reason.

I didn’t know the true joy of bedtime stories until I told my first one. I started babysitting very young. I was eleven years old. The kids weren’t that much younger than me – about five and seven. Their names were Jasmine and Noah. It’s weird to think they are in their 30’s now, maybe with kids of their own. They were the first children who ever heard a Harmony Hasbrook original – pulled out of my butt – bedtime story.

Have you ever told a fairy tale off the cuff, with no advance planning whatsoever? It’s scary, magical and liberating. The trick is to NOT think too much and just say the next noun, verb, adjective that pops into your head. It’ always starts with “Once upon a time, there was a ________.” You need a protaganist or two, a villan or two, a problem to solve, a love interest, some animals, a dark forest, a castle, and some item that if the hero gets their hands on it, it will fix everything. Jasmine and Noah were rapt the entire time. I can still picture their faces, and I can hear their begging for one more.

It’s a lot harder to tell these made-up-on-the spot tales when you are old, tired and your imagination is rusty. I have told Melody a bedtime stories once or twice, but it’s far easier to read books. However, there was one time, we were having a coffee date at Cafe Laadro, sitting the adirondak chairs out front, and I started telling her a story. Her eyes were huge and she let her coco get cold. When I was done, she wanted to tell me a story as well. It mysteriously had a lot of the same plot points, but it was beautiful. The next time we went there, she wanted to sit outside in the cold and try to recreate that experience.

The best of all is the story-telling game, best done with 5 or so people around a fire. I start by saying the classic line “Once upon a time there was a…” And the next person picks what that thing is and adds a bit more, and then the next person completes their sentence and so on. No pausing, no skipping – you just make shit up. Melody loves this game and she is remarkably good at it, often she has to be prompted to let the next person talk. The stories generated by the group are always far wilder than anything one person could generate on their own.

I like to think that these story telling experiences is like Popeye’s spinach for Melody’s imagination. They give her the power to create worlds and characters out of nothing, anywhere at any time. In fact, I think I need to make a special time for us to do this, so I don’t fall out of practice. I encourage everyone to test themselves with either the ad-lib monologue or group improv. It’s a great way to induce laughter, and connect with the creative forces all around us.

This was my sixth post for #NaBloPoMo and was inspired by the prompt given to me yesterday by Laura. And here is her gift for tomorrow:

Prompt #6 (Nov 7)
Throw back Thursday. Post an old photo and tell us about it. Transcribe an old journal. Share a memory. Keep it short and simple.

4 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time

  1. Pingback: Throwback Thursday | Harmonious Mess

  2. Storytelling as spinach for our imaginations. Love it!

    Have you ever been to a story slam? I am curious and would like to attend.

  3. Pingback: lamiki » Blog Archive » National Blog Posting Month Writing Prompts: One through Nine

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