The stories started sometime this summer. Z got very interested in what things were like when I was little. While we were in Vermont, in the middle of our cross-country move, with a band new baby E throwing us all for a loop, Z and I struggled and battled and in desperation, I started telling her stories. Often used to keep her patient or OK FINE I'LL SAY IT bribe her to do something I wanted, these stories were also a way to keep us connected at a time when we both were coming apart at the seams just a little. If you sit on the potty before we get in the car, I'll tell you a story. When your tantrum is over, come here, sit on my lap and I'll tell you a story. I know you're having a hard time sleeping....... Once upon a time......
A lot of the early stories were true, or at least as true as I could make them with my Swiss Cheese Brain. They starred me and my best friend growing up (we'll call her Janie) and the lessons we learned along the way. Z likes the ones that are a little bit scary BUT NOT TOO SCARY and she always watches me with rapt attention when I'm talking. (This alone is worth it, I think.)
They are all entirely made up at this point, because, well, because there have been 856,387 of them so far.
They always start the same way:
Z, sweetly: Mommmma??
CBHM, knowing what's coming: Yes, darlin'?
Z: Could you tell me a story? ActuallyhappenedandalittlebitscarybutnottooscaryandithasyouandJanieinitandithasFOURSCARY PARTS?
CBHM, sometimes with smile, sometimes with a grimace, always with: Yes, sweetheart. Once upon a time there was a little girl named --
CBHM: and I had a best friend named--
CBHM: and one day-
Z: -Did this actually happen? When will the scary part happen?
Now the telling of these stories is a part of our daily routine, so ingrained in our lives that I wonder if I'll be telling her these stories when she's a teenager. And, of course, I realize I will not be. Soon enough she will not care what actually happened when I was a little girl. She will not stare at me with rapt attention when I speak about anything.
And so I tell her stories. Even though I sometimes shudder when she starts asking, exhausted before I even begin, and sometimes I rue the day I started this.
I still tell her stories.
(But Z? Most of them didn't actually happen. I'm sorry about that.)