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Tell Me A Story, Mama!

Your Own Stories Are As Good As Any Book

My mother told me many funny stories of her youth when I was growing up. 

She was the fourth of four children, born 11 years after her next oldest sibling, when their mom was 41 years old. 

The stories we mostly of her antics of being a spunky child of a mother who had thought she was done parenting only to be surprised with my mother. I particularly loved the story of how my mom brought home  a tiny black kitten after wanting one so badly and being told “no,” repeatedly and how my grandmother finally acquiesced to let the kitten stay only because he was "so cute."   

Another favorite story is how as a teenager my mom bleached her hair white as a sheet and shocked my grandmother so, having gone from brunette to bleach blond in moments behind her bedroom door. 

These stories are wonderful testaments to my mother, now passed, of her independence and the humor she found in livening things up living with her mother who had her rather late in life. In "Tell Me A Story, Mama," by Angela Johnson, a young girl is being put to bed by her mother and requests that her mama tell a story of when Mama was little. 

Instead of Mama being the storyteller, her daughter reminds Mama of stories already shared. 

Mama chimes in with affirmations and embellishments such as, “Meanest woman I’ve ever known, too, baby!” to the story of Mama living across the road from a mean old lady who hollered out her window at her and her younger sister every morning.

The little girl continues to recall how her grandmamma, Mama’s mother, made Mama apologize for throwing mud on the old lady’s fence for being so mean and then kissed mama and gave her an extra sweet roll after dinner. 

Mama replied, “Your grandmamma makes the best sweet rolls!” The little girl asks whether gGandmamma will be with her forever.  Mama replies, “She won’t be here forever, baby, but long enough for you never to forget how much she loves you.” 

The stories continue, reliving mama’s rescue of a lost puppy, being sent to live with her aunt for a few months  while her parent’s worked, and how mama’s younger sister cried all the way on the train to Aunt Rosetta’s house where they were staying.  The little girl asked her mother if it is OK to cry.  Mama answers, “If you feel like it, it’s OK.” 

The little girl then connects the emotion of crying to how she felt when her best friend Corey moved away; how she cried and how she bet Corey did too. 

Mama, said, “I bet he did.” 

“Would you cry if I moved away, Mama?”  “Yes, I will…”  Another story is retold how grandmamma cried when mama moved away.  “I remember”, said mama. “I like it when you tell me stories, mama.  Tell me more tomorrow.” 

“Okay, baby.  More stories tomorrow,” as mama and her daughter embrace in an exchange of love and stories that will be replayed at many bedtimes to come.

This is a great bedtime story for 4-9 year olds.  It emphasizes the importance of family history, storytelling and the intimacy that can be shared at bedtime through books and even orally told stories whether made up or real life family tales.

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