Tell Me a Story

During our down time in Bosnia, Leah starting asking, “Tell me a story.”

It was so open-ended that I struggled with it.

I asked her if she got the idea for that from La La Land. Those words were the lead-in to my favorite song from the movie.

Leah assured me that, no, she had been asking that question for years. I’m pretty sure that La La Land got the idea from her.

So, sitting in the shade one day, she said, “Tell me a story.”

“I can’t,” I told her. “I need some parameters.”

“Okay. Tell me a story about when you were in grade school,” she said — and I did. I told her about a day in 3rd grade when I experienced agony and ecstasy, as best a 3rd grader can.

In short, our class had gotten back from a trip to the library. I had checked out Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper.” My teacher, Miss Bliss, held up the book (and me, figuratively) as an example of a student choosing good literature to read. Later in the day, I couldn’t find my math paper in my desk — I’ve been a messy for as long as I can remember — and she dumped the contents of my desk on the floor in the middle of the classroom. I can still remember that shame. Same day.

Later, Leah asked Mary to tell a story, and Mary launched into an imaginative story with dragons and little girls. Ajla, one of the Bosnian girls, listened wide-eyed and delighted.

“You are a great storyteller,” she told Mary, “in the lies.”


Ajla’s English was excellent. Except when she didn’t know the right word.

Yesterday, I spent some time at the emergency room with my father.

As we waited and waited, I grew fidgety. An excellent PCA named Roy helped turn my attitude around.

Roy had stopped by my father’s hallway bed several times. He was always cheerful. On one of his check-ins, he looked at me and said, “Tell him a story.”

I was busily mentally drafting complaint letters and griping to my sister via text. I didn’t respond to Roy, so he repeated it.

“I’m talking to you,” he said. “Tell him a story.”

“I can’t,” I said. “I need some parameters.” It was a deja vu moment — and I was back in Bosnia.

“I’ll get you started,” Roy said. “‘Once upon a time in a castle far, far away…’”

I laughed, and took up the story.

“Dad, did I tell you about the castle where we stayed in Bosnia?”

“A castle?” he asked.

the castle

“A real castle,” I repeated, “from the Ottoman Empire.”

Telling him about the castle took our minds off the fact that we were waiting in the emergency room.

With Leah, it took our minds of the heat and lethargy of the day.

“Tell me a story.”

Those are magical words.