When I was a new mom, I read picture books to the girls all the time. I would check out stacks of books, and we would pile together in the big comfy chair, or fort ourselves amid cushions on the floor of my bedroom and read. “Just one more,” was as ubiquitous as “I wanna glass of water,” for the bedtime ritual. Once in a while, our stack of books failed to tempt, and then it was, “tell us a story, mama.” So, I would weave stories using folk tales, fairy tales, bible stories, heroine tales of fierce women into once-upon-a-times…. for example, the Huff & Puff Wolf after he winds himself on the house of bricks — instead of climbing down the chimney to be parboiled, he wanders off into the woods having decided to become a vegetarian.
One of our favorites went like this —
Once upon a time, when the world was very young, gods and humans played together among the forest and hills. There were rules to these games and Zeus, the king of the gods, wanted to make sure the humans respected the powers of the gods.
When Prometheus, a young god, who admired all the wildly differing types of humankind, shared “fire” with people, Zeus was really angry. He punished Prometheus horribly, and promised his revenge on humanity. Disguised as an old peddler, the king of the Gods brought a box to a couple living at the edge of the forest. He told them the gods had entrusted it to them, and no matter what the circumstance, no matter how long it took for someone to come for it — “do not open the box.” Epi and Pandora were the couple given with the box, and Epi shoved it out of the way and promptly forgot about it. Not so, Pandora. Each day she noticed it, each day she turned her head and said, “nope, not interested,” while each day her curiosity grew stronger and stronger. Weeks passed, months, and each day the box seemed to grow brighter and more compelling….
One morning, as Epi left for the day, Pandora found the temptation overwhelming. Dragging the box to the center of the room, she knelt before the lock. As she stroked the dust away, it seemed as if voices begged, “open us, set us free, please, don’t you want to know?” Making a decision, she fingered open the knot….whooosh! The lid sprang open and all manner of dark beasties flew from its depths. Nipped, pinched, and scratched Pandora cried and then looked out the window in horror as people began to fight, dropped from illness, screamed pain at the sky….
“No,” she whimpered and with all her fragile strength she slammed the lid closed. “Wait,” a dainty voice warbled from the darkness, “let me shine.” Pandora sobbed that she knew better now…. and the small warm words soothed her and once again she cracked open the seductive box. “Thank you, my dear, oh look at your poor self,” and the little shimmering light kissed the marks on Pandora and they faded into small skin memories…. “Who are you,” Pandora hiccupped, “and can you help them?” She gestured out the window at the screams, smoke and horrors raging. “Not all, not everything my little one — but sometimes my light is enough to make the troubles ease.” She kissed Pandora once again… and as she shimmered in the window, Pandora called, “wait, what is your name so I can remember you?”
“Hope,” wafted the reply as the light sent some of the beasties cowering, and renewed the strength of those fighting from afar….
The moral of the story is even if bad things seem to be accumulating like bats in an attic — a little hope brightens the corners and sends some of the worries fluttering into the distant night.
I miss the pillow forts and the nights full of stories — now we share things that make us laugh or coo across Facebook pages. We tell each other books that are “mother-daughters” book club worthy – and the three of us find meaning in song lyrics and poetry…. Each day brings challenge and joy, not always in equal measure — yet the stories, the laughter we share offer glimpses of shimmering Hope brightening shadowed corners
- High Hopes (Frank Sinatra) — Sinatra’s most famous novelty song, even used for JFK’s 1960 presidential campaign — 2 facts: 1) children are titillated by the ram’s dam such a kick, and 2) it will bond the most obstreperous of siblings as they begged for you to skip it….
- Dear Hearts and Gentle People (Patti Page) — one of those songs that evokes clapboard siding, dogs sprawled on the lawn (evidently at some point there will be 15 corgis), sitting on the porch steps churning homemade ice cream
- No Story Time (Smallpools) — considered an Indie pop band, they are a high-energy riot on stage. They opened for Neon Trees at Rams Head in Baltimore and had the audience moving by the 2nd song.
- Far Away Places (Margaret Whiting) — one of those incredibly lush post war vocal numbers that spoke to the longing for a world where travel was beautiful, and vistas had opened. I think of my list every time the song plays
- No Myth (Michael Penn) — “pigheadedly uncommercial” is how the singer/songwriter/soundtrack composer is described. This is such a well-crafted little song, “what if she’s just looking for someone to dance with….”
- Lean on Me (Sheryl Crow & Kid Rock) — not a collaboration I would have thought would work… but their cover of the Bill Withers’ standard on the Haiti relief album works surprisingly well….
- Storybook Love (Mark Knopfler) — If there are people in life that you wish would show up at your door and play guitar — he would definitely be at the top of the list.This is the end credit song from Princess Bride, and it’s quite completely & utterly perfect…
- I Hope you Dance (Lee Ann Womack) –it’s kind of like the “live, love, laugh” cliché translated into music — which makes it sound cheesy & earnest, which it is — but it’s hopeful & tender as well.
- All Around the World (Paul Simon) — off of the.”indispensable” Graceland, this song, “I’ve seen them all, and man they’re all the same.” — reveals the sameness in every different story
- Love Story (Taylor Swift) — so, my computer didn’t explode when I typed it –so we should be ok…. the tune is catchy, Shakespeare is butchered, and “Romeo, save me — I feel so alone!?” Really, darling please go & reread the Bard — talk to Lear, or Desdemona if you want to talk about misunderstandings & loneliness
- I Hope that Something Better Comes along (Matt Nathanson/Rolf the Dog) — the age old story of a dog, another dog and a piano — from the Muppet Movie, covered fantastically by Matt Nathanson.
- Hello Young Lovers (Marni Nixon) — such a romantically tragic song…. yet with small bits of hope tossed in to soar. Kevin Spacey does an interestingly complex version in the wake of his portrayal of Bobby Darin.
- Hero’s Song (Brendan James) — one of the few songs about the Iraq war — it’s complex, nuanced and warmly compassionate. I would like to see Brendan live before he becomes a stadium performer
- Ass Back Home (Gym Class Heroes) — a song that creeps up and charms you without your noticing — it’s got a smooth little hook. And the middle rap just revels in its joy
- The Best things Happen while you’re Dancing (Danny Kaye) — a favorite song in a movie chock full of favorite songs, this is onomatopoeic whirling in a musical memory — although every time it starts, one has a brief question about Vera-Ellen’s impossibly small waist
- Wonder (Natalie Merchant) — loved this song and the topic when it was released back a million years ago — absolutely adore that one of the best books for kids of the past few years, Wonder by RJ Palacio, plays off the song for its title
- Time Loves a Hero (Little Feat) — so, most playlists need a little Lowell George 🙂 and Little Feat should be a bigger household name
- This Story (Kasey Chambers) — this Australian singer offers stories and rhythms that resonate far beyond the island or Nashville in fact
- Long Ago & Far Away (Gene Kelly) — not known for his vocals — his growly voice is just right for this nostalgic little number
- Thanks for the Memories (Bob Hope) — the iconic sign off for Bob Hope was a hit for he & Shirley Ross in the late 30s — it’s wry, and gentle and a little hopeful