In the past six months I have written over 150 stories. Some writers say that they write their stories and don’t read them again. Other writers like to read their stories. I like to read my stories.
When we were children the broadcast television available was pretty straightforward. Local news and a local kiddie show in the morning. Captain Kangaroo, soap operas, evening news, a couple of western shows like Chuck Wagon and Gun Smoke and then sign off which began with the National Anthem and finished off with the national alert signal and finally with broadcast snow.
We did a lot more reading then. I suppose many families still read to their children. Children’s book sales are strong and the popular literature in movies, TV and magazines as well as parenting materials indicate that children still have bedtime stories. That is very good. What is sad is that we stop reading to each other once we learn to read ourselves. Twelve year old children don’t typically have bedtime stories other than the ones they hear their headsets but those are a wee bit different. As adults we don’t usually read to each other. We don’t read books as a family,
My mom and my dad, as well as my spouses mom and dad all read to us. When we were very little it was bed time stories but as we grew older the books grew in complexity and length.
My memory of events is sometimes marked by my memory of the books we read at the time of the event. During the civil rights movement there was unrest in the town where I grew up. When the mandatory integration of the schools was ordered there was a great upheaval. My parents were not front-line civil rights leaders but they were known as being “sympathetic to the plight.” We were taught that all people were equal but we also lived in a system in which people were not treated equally.
When the time came for the school children and the teachers to be moved around mid-year, my parents were worried. They arranged for us to go to a cabin in a state park in another state and stay for a while until “things settle down.” They packed the car the night before we were to leave. We had been admonished not to tell anyone we were going somewhere. I remember being confused but believing that we were doing the right thing. I also remember feeling the tension in the town and in my family as the world crawled toward equality.
We were awakened at 4:30 in the morning to get underway. My mom and dad had packed the car so that the back lay down and they put the luggage on the floor where your feet would have gone. They made a pallet there for us so we could continue to sleep. Each of my sisters were tucked in and covered over with a blanket so they did not really show if you looked in the windows. I don’t remember for sure but I believe I was allowed to sit in the front but only after promising to slide down onto the floor if we saw any cars approaching. As we pulled out of the carport my Dad said, “Just keep driving, no matter what. I will stay here and take care of things. You get those children out of here.”
It was a sad and brave thing my parents did. They supported integration and they wanted change for justice and they wanted their family safe.
For my family it was a time of positive change tinged with worry about why we had left. We had seen television clips from Montgomery and from Little Rock and feared similar things in our town.
It was cold in the cabin. They were not usually open at that time of year but we knew the rangers and they were able to help us rent a cabin for that time. It was so cold that we went down to the store in the nearby small town and purchased some blankets and hung them on two of the walls to keep the room warmer. The wind still blew and the blankets billowed in and out depending on the prevailing winds.
It was to this backdrop that my mother read us The Uninvited written by Dorothy MacCartle in 1942, a classic ghost story. The story is of a young couple looking for a house. They buy a house at a great price in a beach community. The house includes ghosts and brilliant writing. We huddled around the fireplace in the evenings with a single lamp wan light bulb while Mama read to us. The blankets always seemed to puff out at the scariest parts. I remember keeping my feet on the couch. I vaguely remember Mama letting us all sleep in the living room on the couch that folded into a bed.
So with this personal history of being read to it seems the most normal thing in the world to share our stories by reading them to others. I recorded the whole month of September of this blog and posted both audio and text versions of the stories. Whenever I can, I read the stories to others. When I do that the stories feel less like stories I wrote and more like stories that have an independent life and live in the words with which they are written. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me sigh the sigh of sweet satisfaction. They give me hope and they remind me of the terrible days of grief when the fire was so fresh. They are words, independent and free, that share a story of us; my spouse, my silly dog and me.
Some writers say that they write their stories and don’t read them again. Other writers like to read their stories. I like to read my stories to others.