I am not a storyteller. I can write and report and tell stories in the paper, but when it comes to verbally telling a tale, true or made-up, I have a little trouble.
Often after I tell a story, I think later, "I could have told that better." Maybe I could have taken my time and not gotten ahead of myself. Sometimes I have to say, "Wait, let me back up."
I don't feel I have the gift of gab. I talk, don't get me wrong. And for the most part I like to talk. But I don't feel like the guy who has everybody's undivided attention while he spins a yarn.
Then my son came along. Jameson is 4 and takes in everything I say. (I have to be careful what I say.) He listens, he asks questions, and he remembers what he's heard. Often he will ask me to tell him that story again.
When it's Jameson's bedtime, I read him a story. He goes through phases. For a while he wanted to hear a Dr. Seuss story every night. Then it was Walt Disney's "Grandpa Bunny." Then Curious George. Then the Critter Family. Lately it's been Bible stories.
Reading Jameson a story lets me off the hook as far as telling him a story in my own words. Now and then I'll read a line wrong or mix things up for a laugh or to see if he's listening. He always catches me.
For a while, when I was reading Curious George stories, Jameson would say, "Read it wrong, Daddy." He likes it when I read, "They bought snacks to read and newspapers to eat."
When Jameson was younger I used to rub his head and tell him I was glad he was all right and recount the battle he waged against brain cancer when he was too young to remember.
One night after reading Jameson one of his bedtime stories, I stumbled on an original story while telling him about a jigsaw puzzle I remembered working on with my brother and dad when I was in grade school. The puzzle depicted an outdoor scene of a campsite being invaded by a black bear just as the outdoorsman was returning from gathering firewood.
My description of what was in that picture puzzle and what I perceived was happening -- using my memory and imagination -- formed a story that Jameson wanted to know more about. I told him the campsite was similar to one we read about in a book where George the curious monkey and the Man with the Yellow Hat went camping.
I told him the bear was inside the man's tent looking for food because he could smell it. The man, when he returned, saw the bear and began to holler at it and the bear got scared and ran away. I guess my words made the mental picture I painted come to life.
About a week later, Jameson said, "Tell me the story about the bear and Curious George camping." As I told it I added more to it. I told him after the man chased the bear away, he put all of his food in a bag and hanged it from a tree with a rope. Jameson ate it up.
I might be a storyteller yet.