"Tell us a story!" my sister and I would plead with my mother on those certain evenings that seemed to exist for story-telling.
We would eagerly sit close to her leaning forward in anticipation and so as not to miss a single word. She must have learned much of her tale-spinning technique from her mother. My grandmother would tell a story with such gravity and intensity that she held you captive with her every word, and then her voice would quiver and our eyes would widen as prickles of fear and tension crawled up our spines, raising the hairs on the backs of our necks. In retrospect, I think the quiver in her voice came mostly from her about to break out into laughter as she played with our imaginations, but at the time it seemed like a shiver of impending terror.
When my mother told us a story she would make it more playful, but she still kept some of the frightfulness that Grandmother was so effective at injecting into a story. We would ask for the same favorites over and over again. They were simple stories about her childhood.
There was the story about the long-bearded man who accused my grandfather of stealing his pants and the next-door neighbor lady who they were convinced was a witch. The stories of when her family's house burned down, when she got hit in the head with a chunk of coal, or when she went to New York City with her dance class were stories we heard repeatedly and savored them every time we heard them.
My dad could tell a joke which would always make us laugh, but my mother had a special magic of telling a good story. That's probably what has been the biggest influence in my desire to tell stories. I want to have that skill of transporting others to another place-- to cast a spell that will enchant, entertain, and amuse.
Years later, when I had children of my own, it always brought me such a feeling of happiness to hear my kids say, "Daddy, tell us a story."
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