Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tell me a story and a Robin Williams moment

Last week, our granddaughters spent a few days with us. Addie who is 'almost four!' and whose language development is off-the-charts is at that wondrous stage of emerging imagination. One of her favorite requests is, "Tell me a story." Stories she knows about characters she loves are easy for re-telling - Nemo, Cinderella, the Three Little Pigs.

One afternoon, we were blowing bubbles outside and Addie stopped in her tracks. "Tell me a story about a magic bubble." She supplied the characters and in less than a minute, I had the rough sketch of a story in my head - beginning, middle, and end, problem and resolution, setting - all of it. Whoa. I told her my story and then dictated it into my voice recorder for safekeeping.

The following day, the same thing happened, this time with a story about 'a tree that's lost in the woods.' Trying to picture how a tree could get lost, I asked about the tree, could it walk and talk, like Tolkien's Ents. She said, "No, silly. Trees don't walk or talk. They're just trees." Ah, well. But again inside a minute, I had a story about a magic tree whose whereabouts had been lost to the ages.

Then I turned it around on her. "Your turn to tell a story," I said. "Who is it about?" I'm proud to say  she was the hero of her own story and she brought along a companion on her imaginary adventure, either her sister or her buddy Cole who lives down the street. I'd supply a detail or two, maybe the setting (a beach) or a problem (they lost their sand toys) and with a few 'and then what happened?' prompts, she'd take it from there. She is a great storyteller-in-the-making.

Ironic that this happened the week we lost one of our generation's great creative minds. When asked about how he came up with imaginative ideas in his classic rapid-fire style, the late Robin Williams once said it came to him as he watched his four-year-old playing with action figures. The child made different voices and personalities for each figure, creating villain-filled problems with hero-filled solutions. One of our generations greatest actors and comics said all he did was try to channel his inner four-year-old.

I'm thankful to have an imaginative four-year-old in my life too. 

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