My oldest grandson and I spent an enjoyable hour in the sunny backyard of his home with his family’s dog, an imaginary invading army of bad guys, two castles overlooking a wide valley containing a small village, and a large number of both fire- and ice-breathing dragons. My two grandsons are the offspring of my youngest daughter, a talented woman who lives off the proceeds of her writing career in the way I once imagined I would. Our entire family loves both reading and writing and my grandson enjoys not only having books read to him, but also making up stories the way his mother does for many hours every day.
So today he asked me to tell him a story. While I’m not bad at coming up with impromptu ideas when I’m walking around alone, my imagination shuts down when I’m put on the spot so I asked what he wanted to hear while thinking furiously about what to tell him.
“Dragons!” he said.
I’ve read some high fantasy in my day so I’ve got a good idea of how a dragon story could go. As the mother of three and grandmother of two, I also know that kids like hearing stories about themselves. So I started with “Once upon a time…”
“Ouch!” said the grandson.
“Once upon a time…ouch?” I said. “The end.”
He started giggling and repeating the “Once upon a time…ouch…the end” story over and over for the next few minutes. Four-year-old kids are amused by that kind of thing.
“Tell me another story, grama,” he said a few minutes later.
Again, I started with, “Once upon a time…” When he didn’t interject an “ouch,” I continued to spin a tale of two castles, each ruled by one of my grandsons, with an army of dragons carrying messages across the valley between them. At the side of King Oldest Grandson sat his majestic Royal Dog while King Youngest Grandson cuddled with his Royal Cat. The two Kings enjoyed their Royal lives until bad guys stormed the village and forced the dragons to breathe a wall of protective flame around the village. The dragon fire flamed so high the invaders couldn’t get past so they ran away from the intense heat. Unfortunately, the fire then threatened the village, so King Oldest Grandson called in his ice-breathing dragons to put out the inferno. Everyone then lived happily ever after. The end.
Making up stories with my grandson and daughters on this beautiful afternoon reminded me why I enjoy writing so much – the sheer joy of letting the imagination run wild. Over the years, I’ve gotten so caught up in mechanics that I’ve lost some of the fun. Next time I sit down to write I’ll remember the brother kings and their dragon army and the warmth of an afternoon in the sun with my grandson.
Once upon a time…ouch…the end.