I love when I have the opportunity to put my three-year-old grandson Max down for his afternoon nap or when I am the one to tuck him into bed at night. First we snuggle together in his big boy bed and then we read a few of his favorite books that are usually scattered all around on his Thomas the Tank Engine pillows. When we have reached our quota, he puts his smooth face very close to mine, focuses on me with his wide blue eyes, and whispers in his innocent voice, “Tell me a mouth story Mimi.” And then he tells me one of his.
A “mouth story” is Max’s term for a story that starts in your head and comes out of your mouth. It is not a tale from a book, never duplicated, and the words are not written down on pages. Its characters are usually very familiar, such as family members or close friends, but with silly names. It is not too scary, otherwise we have to check the closet and after it is determined that there are no monsters, we declare out loud, “Just clothes and shoes!”
I think that I was born to be a story teller, so Max’s request always delights me. A dedicated observer of life and often a mimic of its inhabitants, my head is often awash in its comedy. It is challenging to select just one story and to illustrate the correct images with my words.
“Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life.” (Dr. Pamela Rutlelge)
Recently my oldest sister Christine sent me three wonderful books by the acclaimed author Roger Rosenblatt. She discovered them in her writing class and thought that I might enjoy them. Rosenblatt and I are both teachers and writers, but the similarity stops there. His curriculum vitae include two George Polk Awards, the Peabody, and the Emmy. I have authored one book, published two stories and have two more coming out in an eBook. I therefore gladly defer to his expertise.
In the first book “Unless it Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing” , he reflects upon his teaching career and curiously remarks that “Writing is the cure for the disease of living. Doing it may sometimes feel like an escape from the world, but at its best moments it is an act of rescue.”
Summing up a semester of writing instruction to his students, he tells them, “If there is one lesson I hope to have given you in our class, it is that your life matters. Now make it matter to others.” I liked that message because that is why I write.
I was not able to put down his second book, “Making Toast” and I know why my sister sent it to me. This memoir was a tribute to his daughter Amy—a gifted doctor, mother, and wife. Her untimely death at age thirty-eight unmercifully thrust him onto the path of grief. He describes his painful journey as he and his wife move in with their son-in-law to help raise their three young grandchildren. His straight forward descriptions of his grief kept me nodding in agreement through my tears and his simple and honest observation of life and love touched my soul. I think that Mr. Rosenblatt and I could be friends.
“We confirm our reality by sharing.”(Barbara Grizzuti Harrison)
My book and my printed stories are my way of sharing my life with others. I enjoy opening up my heart in the hopes that someone else can identify with the basic human emotions that we all feel and make a connection. They give a purpose to my life.
Max’s simple “mouth stories” are the first insights into his view of the world that he shares with me. His elementary story lines and my spontaneous yarns conjoin our hearts. I learn about what makes him laugh and what makes him worried. He learns that Mimi is silly.
I hope that I can continue to amuse him and that ultimately he finds the purpose of his life like the one that I have found with my stories. I also hope that we never stop telling our “mouth stories” and that they go on forever.
May you too find someone with whom to share your valuable stories. All of our lives matter in their own special way.