If I can give my daughter a gift, any gift, it will be the gift of story. More than anything else, stories carry us through our lives. When we meet new people, we listen to their stories. Sometimes we make up stories about people, whether we know them or not.
Yesterday I was reading a novel called, Gwenhwyfar, The White Spirit, and had to blurt out, “I love books! No, really I love stories.” Because my husband was driving and I felt kind of bad for being so involved in the novel that I wasn’t paying attention and telling him how to drive like I normally do. He laughed a little, not really understanding because he doesn’t like reading, but knowing that I meant it as an explanation for my mental absence. He was probably really laughing from relief, since my backseat driving isn’t very good when I’m looking at pages rather than the road.
Story. My best high-school friend and I found out we are related thanks to story. Her grandma, Nana, tells of her ancestor who fought in the Battle of the Ironclads. He was a sailor of 17 years, aboard the Monitor. Before they scuttled her, he took the compass. The family is still in possession of the compass and his flag. I have touched them. This young man was my great-grandfather’s brother.
Story. We once had a friend who lost a shoe. The shoe could not be found. It flew off of his foot and disappeared. After thoroughly searching places not even remotely close to where the flying show incident occurred, he decided that the fairies had taken the shoe. He saved the other one, a bright yellow Croc, and built a fairy house. The fairy house went into the woods beside their home and there they left offerings to the fairies, hoping that the gifts would be exchanged for the shoe. The fairies took the gifts and eventually he did find the shoe. We’ve lost touch but I like to imagine that he is still wearing those yellow rubber clogs that the fairies so admired.
Story can be an insight into someone else’s imagination but can also spark our own. Never am I so lost and enthralled as when in the midst of a novel whose story grabs me, carries me away into a land where I am connected to what is happening via the written word. I carry these stories inside me, stories from all over the place: Raggedy Anne and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees (when Martina was small and having a bad day we read this and she said, “The Camel with the Poopy Knees.” I knew it was a really bad day then, because she has always been such a good girl that saying ‘poopy’ was a real stretch.); The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (the best ending ever. Ever.); Alligator Dance (written by my college professor, a lovely, classy, committed writer who I loved. Her stories.); The Classics that can be read and read again rewritten by someone else and then watched in movie form.
Without story our culture has no food, no heart, no soul. Story is what nourishes us and keeps us honest. Stories tell us how to behave, how to love, and what not to do. Story connects us, like the spirit trail running through a Navajo blanket, holding each thread separately but connecting them all into a beautiful, colorful whole.
If there is one thing I can give my daughter as a gift, in these years that she is with me, being homeschooled, it will be the gift of story.