You wanna know how the Jenn stories got started? I’ll tell you how:
But really, the stories started even before that.
I’ve always enjoyed a good story. Somewhere in a box at my parents’ house, no doubt, there is still a audio-cassette tape of one of our Honduran Christmases which my parents later sent on to their parents to help them feel like they were still in the lives of their only grandchildren. On this cassette, you can hear my parents urging me on in my gift-opening and asking me what each present is. I receive a lot of books. Eventually one of my parents says, “Jenny, do you want to keep opening presents, or do you want to take a little break and read some of your books.”
I am two years old. How many two-year-olds do you know who would even have to have that question asked of them? Or who would answer the way I do, on this cassette.
“Read books,” I say, without missing a beat.
So I guess it’s not too surprising that I enjoyed my bedtime stories all throughout childhood. Also, I was afraid of going to bed. I got lots of nightmares, so I thought there were Bad Dream Things that lived between the bed and the wall and if I rolled over too close to the wall in my sleep, they’d take over and give me Bad Dreams. No kid ever wants to go to bed, but I was legitimately afraid of my nighttime. When saying my prayers before bed (after ascertaining that, although there was a word for Bad Dreams–Nightmares–there wasn’t one for Good Dreams, which just seemed to confirm my own experience), I began praying that God would give me “a good sleep with Happy Dreams.” Sometimes He agreed.
Therefore, I would beg for more and more and more stories. Sometimes my dad would have mercy and make one up off the top of his head, but eventually the time always came when he or my mother would say it was absolutely time to go to sleep, and they would turn the light out, leave the door open “a crack,” and step out into the hallway.
Sometimes, however, I just couldn’t fall asleep. I came up with all sorts of excuses, worthy of any Frances out there. Finally, my mother struck upon an idea.
One evening I got up and trundled as usual down the terrazo-tiled hallway to the livingroom. “Can you tell me another story?” I asked. I have no doubt my parents rolled their eyes. Then my mother said,
“No. But why don’t you go back to bed and tell yourself a story?”
I suspect I probably protested this, but eventually I went back down the hall, climbed back into my bed, and began telling myself a story. Out loud. Very, very out loud. It was about Talking Animals going on a picnic, I think, but even though I tried to tell myself this same story many more nighttimes, I never did get to find out what happened in it, because by the time I got past delineating all the characters who were attending this picnic, I was fast asleep . . .