the first storyteller

I have a terrible memory. I mean, awful. But I do remember my childhood being chock full of stories. I have a sense that my mom read to me, and my older sister might have as well. But the tales that fill my lopsided, perforated memory aren’t the ones with flying monkeys or white knights. There aren’t princesses or Ewoks or dogs that rescue people. I have vague notions of these things.

This is what I remember:
I ask my dad a question, and his face lights up. “Well, let’s find out!” he says and hefts me into his arms. The “answer” will take time. He’ll find books, show me pictures, explain how the environment affects my question, its historical context, what we might expect in the future… He builds me a world.

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He liked to tell people his favorite story about me:
One night he was trying to put me to bed, and I asked him where the chimney stopped. I wouldn’t go to sleep until he took me to the basement, explained how the furnace worked, and showed me how it fed into the chimney, etc. etc. I call a bit of bullshit on the whole “Sara made me do it” feel of the anecdote, but the rest of it is true.

He didn’t write anything down, and he didn’t make anything up, but my dad was the best storyteller I knew. When I write, I think about his curiosity and his desire to understand the workings of things. I want the worlds I build to make as much sense to my readers as they would to a person living there. The chimney shouldn’t stop halfway through the house.

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