I just up and wrote a tiny children’s book! Not a book for tiny children, though they are welcome to it, just a tiny book. Copyright me, this year.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, in the cold forests of the north, a little girl was born, the first and only child to a royal family in a small, troubled kingdom. She was named Princess Laurel. The trouble came from the girl’s parents, the king, and queen. Theirs was a loveless marriage, arranged when they were little more than children themselves. Their marriage was demanded by popular acclaim as a peace settlement to pacify and unify the eternally warring adjoining duchies of Laurel’s grandparents. The citizens of the blended kingdom say that the war didn’t so much stop as shrink and restrict itself to the dimensions of the castle and specifically the persons of the King and Queen. Each had their own court with advisors, ministers, elite guards, minstrels and magicians. All these swore fealty to the Monarch of their court and then to the Kingdom as a whole as a bit of an afterthought. The two courts faced each other warily and communicated in an arch mockery of courtly manners that dripped contempt and implied dark suspicions. All participants had drifted into this unpleasantness by watching and imitating the King and Queen during their tense meetings and the ways they discussed each other in private.
The King and Queen lived at opposite ends of the castle, which had been ripped apart inside and rebuilt as two wholly separate seats of imposing monarchial power. Exactly between them, incongruously cozy, pastel and modest, was the nursery and bedroom suite prepared for Princess Laurel. To each side of her rooms was a heavily spiked iron gate, one to the Queen’s side and one to the King’s. Every morning both gates had to be noisily and laboriously raised and locked open to allow visitors from the other side. This would become the morning wake-up sound for Laurel, and she would often fall asleep shortly after the last thump and clank of the re-lowered gates at night.
It’s just a snippet out of context and it won’t mean much to you, but for me, this is like finding a shred of an ancient scroll in a clay pot: Thrilling, but poignantly incomplete.
I love bedtime stories. Listening to the voice of someone I love telling me a story at bedtime carries me along like a gentle river, and the moment of drifting off is exquisitely easy. It’s unburdened by the thornbush of anxious thoughts where we so often find ourselves after turning off the light. I also love reading bedtime stories. If there was some way that 17 year old Isaac would allow it, I’d be happy doing it now. It’s a very sweet way of being together and sharing a world. I always found it relaxed him into naturally talking about what was happening in his world. This was never the reason for reading, just a very nice side effect. Nothing else allowed him to confide his feelings and concerns so easily. We’d pause the story and explore his situation for a while.
Between the days of reading baby books and the days of reading novels, I nightly made up stories out of thin air. He was very small, but old enough to understand and love a detailed, wide ranging story. He initiated it with a passionate request that I make up a story. I suppose it went on for two or three years ( I didn’t have him full time, but often). If you imagine doing this it feels daunting and doomed to failure. Waiting for a story to collect in your head is useless. The opposite of telling a story is worrying about what story to tell. The secret is to simply begin. Obviously you need a character or situation as the first domino but you can grab one off the endless racks surrounding us and just jump.