This is the tale of a story born in the back seat of a car under a star-filled sky. As a Waldorf teacher, I have had the pleasure of experiencing the gift of a story coming into my imagination at just the right moment. Sometimes it has been a complete gift from the spiritual world. And sometimes it might be the result of exercising an imaginative “muscle” that left me open to stories waiting to be shared.
We were driving home from our lantern walk in Pagosa Springs (Colorado). The night was so cold and clear, and the little boy who sat next to me was full of all the wonder the night had been….A precocious 4-year-old, visiting us for the weekend and not raised in anything resembling Waldorf, he is tired and wiggly and about to get wound up tight as we make our way home. And he says, of course, that he is not tired. He wants to stay awake. And so the story begins as I start telling him all about another little boy who wanted to stay awake all night and how that worked out. The story is full of gentle rhyming, and includes all the people who surround him, and more, because it is a long drive home. By the end of the story he is breathing rhythmically, gently drifting at the edge of sleep rather than the edge of overtired, ready for the transfer to bed and dreams.
When my son got home to Phoenix, he requested a copy of that story so he could continue to share it with that little one whenever he wanted. A copy? Of a story told on the fly? I chuckled a bit and then start to think about the story and realize it is a request for me to do something I have wanted to do for a while now. And so the writing begins, the water color paintings are made and, by Christmas, I have a gift for that little boy and my grown son to share.
And as it was shared, the possibility that a little story could be a new beginning for me presented itself. “Here I am. I need a bit more work, a tweak here and there,” I said to myself. “I need you to have enough confidence to see yourself doing something other than what you have done for so many years now.” Our little school was closing and I found myself facing an empty nest once again. So I jumped. Well, actually, I tiptoed forward and then backward and forward again several times. I lay in bed at night and wondered. I talked to anyone who would listen. I read about getting children’s books published. My very wise son gave me a little advice when I voiced my doubts about whether it was good enough, whether people would really buy it. “You will never know unless you try, Mom.” So I have worked a few extra hours waiting tables in a friend’s restaurant and, with my husband Terry’s constant unconditional support, have gathered enough money to bring this little story to life.
I learned to accept constructive criticism. I was patient as I responded to these “kids” who were helping me to iron out the wrinkles in the story, to tweak the pictures a bit. Now anyone who knows me knows that this is my profound struggle—patience with my responses. I tend to believe I know everything. Just ask me. But I considered, reviewed, rewrote and accepted that I am learning again and still. It is all right to be still with questions. (Thank you to all those patient with me thus far—especially those in my Lifeways training a few years ago, anyone I have worked with, my family…)
I finally held the finished product in my hands and I was profoundly happy. And whether this little story ever becomes anything more doesn’t matter at all. It was the beginning of a very special relationship between a little boy who loves stories and an old storyteller who loves him. And it was a chance for me to open a door to my future which I now believe is a story yet to be told.
The joy of language shared face-to-face through a “little story” (a Suzanne Down-ism) told on the fly is one of the special gifts humans can offer each other—humans of any age. A “little story” can soothe the hurts of even the smallest ones. A tale told quietly while holding and rocking can bring healing more quickly than many other things. A parent’s late arrival is momentarily forgotten. Or an ice pack applied with a story on the side is kept on a tiny bit longer.
Don’t be afraid. A starting point is there for the taking—in the squirrel that just jumped from the tallest tree to the fence, in the pinecone you just kicked as you walked down the drive, in the amazingly dirty sock you just pulled off that little foot. Exercise the imaginative muscle and be open to spiritual gifting and tell a story. And don’t be surprised if you are asked to tell it again, and again, and again.
Paulie Cole is a retired Waldorf teacher. She was the first 1st and 2nd grade teacher at Desert Marigold in Phoenix, before it became a charter school. She worked for many years in a Waldorf-inspired program in Pagosa Springs, Colorado as the preschool-kindergarten teacher. There she met and worked with Kerry Ingram, founder of Mothering Arts and a LifeWays board member. That program became a Lifeways-inspired program that included children from birth to age 7. The decision was made to close the school in May 2013. Paulie credits the Lifeways training in Boulder, and especially her teacher Suzanne Down, as well as all her classmates, with helping her to develop the capacities that made storytelling an integral part of her life. She still lives in southwestern Colorado and is doing handwork and storytelling with her friend Lucy Morrison and their small company, Lulie.
To preview a few pages from her book, Awake All Night go to http://pauliecole1.wix.com/book
It is also available on Amazon.com.