“Tell us a story!” my cousins chorus, scrambling onto their beds and looking at me earnestly. My Aunt is in Australia and my Uncle is in France – I’m still jet-lagged from the flight over and struggling to stay awake through dinner. It’s their bed time and, after the story, it will be my bed time.
“OK, let’s see … Oh, here’s a good book!” I pull the slimmest book I can see from the shelf. I really, really want to get to bed.
“No, a Special Steffy Story!” Timmy protests and the others nod their agreement.
“Let’s read this book,” I say quickly, sitting down and starting it before they can protest further. They settle as I get through the first page and they are listening intently by the second. Except Timmy. He stomps out of the bedroom. I don’t worry too much and I’m sure he’ll come back after another page. He’s probably sitting outside the room secretly listening.
I finish the book, tuck the two remaining cousins into bed, and go in search of Timmy. I’m shocked to find him with tears streaming over his face and immediately feel guilty for not pursuing him straight away. I had no idea how upset he was. He must miss his parents, or perhaps one of his siblings annoyed him without me noticing.
“What’s wrong?” I tuck my arm around his shoulders. “Daddy will be home tomorrow and Mummy will be home in four more sleeps!”
“I want a Steffy Story!” The tears flow anew.
“But that was a super book! Better than my silly stories!”
“No,” he protests, “yours are the best! It’s not the same!”
“Oh.” I look around the room and sigh.
I start with: “Once upon a time there was a boy named Timmy … ” and the story slowly unfolds. A Gryphon flies in through the window, lost and in need of a friend. Timmy helps him. Usually all of my cousins make an appearance in the stories, but tonight’s story is just for Timmy.
Timmy calms down as the Gryphon makes new friends and finds his way home. I’m exhausted and as I tell the story my eyes are half-closed, aching with fatigue. When I speak the words “The End” my eyes open and I see his bright smile, his shining eyes. It was a silly story – a nonsense story. He loved it.
He asks me questions about the Gryphon. He tells me a slightly different version of the story. We laugh and imagine different endings, different adventures to be had.
Timmy goes to bed and I sit down with a notebook, the pages fresh and untouched. I’ve kept detailed travel journals for the past few months, though not as much recently. I haven’t written a story since … How long has it been? Five years? Six? The silly “Special Steffy Stories” each evening have been a little ritual to get them settled into bed. They’re simple and ridiculous.
Yet each story gives my cousins such joy. I had forgotten how important a story can be to a child, forgotten how enthralled they get with magic and adventure and … the simple enjoyment that comes from a simple story.
I look at the first page in the notebook. I don’t know where to start. I have not written in years.
I write “For Timmy”.
That’s a good start, I think.
Then I write.
I haven’t stopped since.