As far as I can remember, stories have been a part of my life. My mother would tell me a variety of stories: short stories meant to teach a lesson, long stories that would span days, historical stories, mythological stories and some that she swore were true that I would doubt sometimes.
I can remember the first story she ever told me, as far as I can remember. It translates to The Farmer and the Rabbit. It was a beautiful ending of a day, the sunset coloring the sky with colors so rich and pure that my young mind couldn’t even comprehend. We were all gathered around the little fire place outside our house, finishing our meals.
My brothers could be heard sucking noisily on the bones that remained from the meat we had eaten. My sister still had a full plate and was picking at the food slowly like she always did. I had already finished and was licking my fingers with gusto, trying to get all the flavor I could from the meal.
My mother stood and threw the leftovers to the dogs. Snarls and yelps filled the darkening sky as the three dogs fought over the scraps. She then came and sat down and sent my brother to get some mangoes from the nearby tree.
As he ran off to get the fruit, I huddled next to my mother on the one side and my sister hugged close to her on the other side. I stuck my thumb into my mouth and grabbed a handful of my mom’s dress in one chubby hand and settled in to listen.
My older brother came back holding four mangoes clutched to his chest and after handing the mangoes out he settled himself next to my other brother after some pushing and shoving for the spot next to the fire. My mother waited until we were all settled in and comfortable before she started, her voice rising and falling and changing with each character.
“It was once told…” she started, telling the tale of the wily rabbit who had to outsmart the farmer to get his food.
Her voice was squeaky and sly for the rabbit and loud and booming for the farmer. She took us through the story, her words painting a picture and conjuring the characters into the night sky. We sat, mesmerized by the simple magic of her tongue as she made our hearts leap as we were running with the rabbit and our tempers flare as we discovered the spoiled garden with the farmer. Our hearts were in our throats as each time the farmer got closer and closer to catching the rabbit, me and my sister cheering when he got away and my brothers booing and declaring that next time they would get him.
As she talked, her voice melding with the noises of the wilderness around us in a harmonious melody that lulled us, my eyes begun to grow drowsy and heavy. I battled hard to reach the end with the others but sleep was simply to strong and my mother’s voice much too hypnotizing. Though I never did get to find out if the farmer caught the rabbit or if the rabbit won once and for all, I was given an experience of beauty in its purest form.
Many nights like this would follow, the stories varied but the beauty and purity was still the same. For my young and open mind, the stories were gateways that led to worlds in which I could roam for days on end. Some were scary and made me huddle closer and made my brothers puff out their chests and pretend to be brave. Some were so funny we would be rolling in the dirt, our peals of laughter splitting the quiet night like the ring of a bell. Some, especially the ones about our ancestors were powerful and so inspiring that we sometimes couldn’t help but to holler a war cry into the night and challenge the hidden dangers of the darkness.
For my young and open mind, the stories were gateways that led to worlds in which I could roam for days on end. And roam I did, exploring the vastness of my imagination and continuing stories that we would start. From that day, I have always love the art of storytelling and as I look at my mother who is now tired from working all day and can’t tell stories anymore and see that it is my turn to carry the torch and spread the beauty to the world.