This article originally appeared in the August issue of Capital District Pages.
An old Norwegian saying wisely tells us, “It is the duty of the present to convey the voices of the past to the ears of the future.”
Once upon a summer night, a mother putting her children to bed suddenly changed course and declared there would be no bedtime book read. The mother, whisking a blanket off the bed, ordered the children to follow her. The children lined up like ducklings behind their mother, and together through the house and out the door they marched. Outside in the summer night air, the mother flung the blanket on the ground and the children instinctively sat down wondering what would come next. Without even a hint of whining, they had successfully escaped their beds and that annoying stream of light that always came through the window at summer bedtimes. As their mother began to tell them a story from a familiar fairytale, they could hardly believe their good fortune. There they were, outside at night, on a comfy blanket, listening to a story and staring at the sky as they invented illustrations in their heads to match their mother’s voice.
After that, once a week throughout the summer, the children were treated to outdoor storytelling at bedtime. The stories changed each time, sometimes made up, sometimes retellings from favorite books, and sometimes true stories about the children themselves when they were babies. On one particular summer night, with the whole family assembled on the storytelling blanket, the parents shared some awesome true stories of their naughty misdeeds when they were young. The children liked those stories best of all. With the parents as the model storytellers, the children learned the art of storytelling and grew up to pass on the same stories to a future generation.