Bear likes us to tell him stories at bedtime. (He's six. Three-year-old Eagle usually wants a song, but Bear always wants stories.) He does enjoy listening to stories on CD (the Magic Tree House ones are favorites), and he does like books, but most of all he likes told stories, and he especially likes new ones.
I have long-since exhausted the easy-to-remember ones, the common fairy tales, and the simple poems. I have never been good at making up stories (Hubby has told the boys a whole series of "Sir Reginald" stories which he makes up with apparent ease, but I do not have that gift.) Then I began telling the less familiar stories, some of the more obscure fairy tales, and trying to remember books I read as a child but have not seen in years. One such nearly-forgotten book is Bartholomew Cubbins. Actually, it's two books: "The 500 hats of Bartholomew Cubbins" and "Bartholomew and the Oobleck." They are Dr Seuss books, and I enjoyed them as a kid, and thought that Bear might too.
So I tried to tell him the stories.
Only it's been at least 18 years since I cracked either book, and I fear I have forgotten more than a little. As I told the stories, I regularly got to places where I said "um, I kinda forget what comes next..." so then I made up bits which may or may not resemble the original story.
The next night, Bear said "Mom, I want the stories of Bartholomy Covins again!"
Of course he did.
And the night after that, and the night after that...
The day after that I emailed my dad. Grandpas are good at reading stories, and he was agreeable to helping a tired mommy and the story-hungry grandson.
I remember one Christmas, when I was perhaps 11, my grandparents bought us a book of fairy tales. It had elaborate illustrations and was a beautiful book. With the book was a cassette tape of Grandma and Grandpa reading the stories from the book. We listened to that tape over and over and over...there are phrases which I still hear in Grandma's voice or Grandpa's voice, and I can't think of any of the stories without thinking of them.
Of course we don't use cassette players so much now, but digital options have simplified both the recording and sharing processes. Today I got an email with .wav files of two stories, recorded in my father's voice. We may live 2500 miles away from Grandma and Grandpa, but they can still read bedtime stories to my boys. (And I no longer have to wrack my brain trying to remember the details of books I haven't seen in two decades!)
May I suggest, for anyone who has beloved little ones who live far away (or even not so far away), that you record some stories for them. Send the books along if you like too, but definitely read them stories. Parents who are tired of the same three books all the time could make recordings too, but I really think that stories from grandparents are invaluable. And the digital copies won't wear out the way that old cassette tape did. Make some mp3s, burn a CD, share stories across generations. ☺