What were you going to be when you grew up? A nurse? Firefighter? Doctor? Policeman?
When I was eight, I knew what I wanted to be — a travel agent. At that age, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure a travel agent did. However, it had the word travel in it. Couldn’t be that bad, right?
I remember using my Rainbow Bright faux phone to call the head office to ask about travel packages for my client to meet Jessica Fletcher in Cabot Cove for a book signing.
My knowledge of far away places outside of my small mountain town may have been limited to what TV stations we got during the 1980s.
I was going to be a travel agent. I just knew it. Or at least that was the plan until one fateful day right before Christmas break.
The Friday before the two-week holiday break was a throw away day. The teachers would sign-out the TV and VCR cart and let us children spend the afternoon watching movies while visions of sugar plums danced in our heads.
My favourite film was “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Who wasn’t excited when Clarence got his wings at the end?
But on this particular holiday countdown afternoon, the teacher gathered us on the carpeted floor. However, there was no TV. No VCR. In their place at the front of the classroom was a wooden stool.
What is this? I thought. I figured our teach dropped the ball and there wasn’t a TV left for our classroom.
“Children, I would like to introduce you to Patrick, a storyteller.”
Patrick* was a man who looked better suited to be driving a semi-truck and not talking to a classroom of third graders. He was wearing a baseball hat, jeans and a flannel shirt. He had a full beard and piercing green eyes.
“Have you ever stayed a bit too late at a friend’s house and had to go home in the dark?” He started one tale. “Well, I have a cautionary tale for you.”
Patrick started weaving a tale of an encounter in the forest with a strange man who said “guess what I can do with my long bony finger and red ruby lips.” Patrick talked in detail about the noises in the forest, the illuminating moon beam and the fear in his heart.
As he spoke, the entire classroom was hanging on his every word. Our mouths were open, our eyes big and we were barely breathing. He had us enraptured with his spoken words.
I have a feeling the teachers were jealous of the trance he put each of us kids into — it was the first time all week we were quiet.
“I was banging on the door, yelling for my mom to unlock it and let me in, when the man with the dark hat and long coat stepped out from the shadows.”
All of us held our breath.
“‘Guess what I can do with my long bony finger and red ruby lips’ and I didn’t want to know. But he brought his long, bony finger up to his red ruby lips and then he –“
There was a long pause before Patrick strummed his lips with his forefinger, cracking up a room full of third-graders.
I went home that Christmas break and told my family the tale.
But I listened to their tales with a new perspective. I heard my mother telling my father tales about her day at work. I heard my sisters tales about why she wasn’t talking to her best friend for the third time that week. I heard my aunt tell the tales of what my cousin did to be grounded the whole holiday break.
Guess what I can do? I can tell stories. There’s a storyteller in all of us and a desire to hear stories. What is your story? There’s a world out there waiting to be enchanted.
*Patrick is the name I give the storyteller for it is one part of my memory that has been forgotten.