“Sign this for me please,” Cole asked, thrusting a permission slip into my lap one Sunday afternoon.
“What am I signing?” I asked, regarding the piece of paper carefully.
“It’s for the storytelling festival at school,” he replied. “I want to do it. Can I do it? Please?”
I nodded, signing the slip.
“Do you know what story you are going to tell?” I asked.
He nodded. “I am working on one.”
“Do you need any help?” I asked.
He eyed me cautiously, concerned I would infringe on his artistic liberties.
“I’m good, Mama. I got it.”
“Are you going to make up your own, or will you do one that’s already been written?”
“I’m gonna make up my own,” he said. “I already have one started. Do you want to hear it?” I nodded, eager to hear what he had come up with. I thought for sure it would be about a pig.
Or a dog.
Or a pig and a dog.
But it wasn’t.
It was a sweet tale of how a hungry man climbed an apple tree one day to get some apples and his dog buried the apple core in the ground and a beautiful tree grew out that became the Christmas tree for their neighborhood.
It had a dog in it, but the story wasn’t centered on the dog. The dog did play an important part though.
“I love that he is all about the arts,” Mama said.
I agreed with her.
He likes sports fine, but isn’t gung-ho on any in particular.
After his first football game, he announced that those guys didn’t know how to share very well.
“They throw the ball to one guy and everyone jumps on him before he gets to play with it very long. He has to run to the other end of the field just to play with it and then he throws it down. They should be in timeout or learn how to share.”
He was only 4 when he made that observation, but I thought he had a good grasp of it.
But when it comes to spinning a yarn, well, my child is pretty good at it.
When he first read “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” I didn’t have to explain to him why the little boy in the book made up fantastical stories to tell his father.
He got it.
His teachers hear his tales, usually asking me to discern between what is real and what is fiction. I have learned to ask them to clarify the stories a little bit for me before I reply – some things are better left to letting one think they are make believe.
I even ask Cole occasionally: “Did this really happen? Or are you making it up?”
“It happened,” he will reply. “You believe me don’t you?”
He has such an imagination – so vivid and descriptive – that it’s hard to know sometimes if he’s created it in his head.
Like when he told me from the back seat last week he won first place in the story telling contest at school.
“I thought that was tomorrow,” I said.
“No. It was today. I won for our class.”
He reached into his book bag, excited, tearing through his folder. “See!” he thrust a piece of paper to me in the front. It was about the luncheon the next day for the storytellers.
“This is about lunch tomorrow – you’re gonna have a pizza lunch in the library.”
He shook his head emphatically.
“No, I am tellin’ you. I won for my class!”
Sure enough, I got home and checked his folder where I found a note from Ms. Kim telling me he won for her class and that he would be competing against the other winners the following day.
“Cole!” I was so happy for him. “You did win!”
“I told you, Mama.” he was so excited he was bouncing. He practiced until he was worn out from reciting the tale.
He got ready for bed early for the first time ever; wanting to make sure he had plenty of rest before the final round.
“I will find out tomorrow who won,” he said, when I picked him up from school the next day. “The other kids, they did good, Mama, they really did.”
He even recited some of their stories to me.
As he got ready for bed that night, worn slap out from talking so much, he smiled up at me and said: “Even if I don’t win or place, I had fun. Does that make sense, Mama? That even if you don’t win something, you just had so much fun it made your heart happy?”
It made perfect sense. I kissed his forehead.
The next morning, all the ladies in the office told me excitedly that Cole had placed – he won third.
“I’m so proud of you.” I told him later, hugging him.
He nodded, still in shock over his win.
“I can’t believe it, Mama,” he said. “I got third place! You know what was the best parts of the whole thing?”
“I got to spend the day in the library, surrounded by all those books, and have pizza. And – I got to tell my story.”
His little face beamed up at me. “Mama, do you have any idea how good it feels to get to share your story with someone?”
I smiled back, hugging him tight.
I think I have a pretty darn good idea.