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August 28, 2014
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Out of the Mouths of Babes

Photo by Ross Brinkerhoff

By Kathleen Grimaldi

“There is no conclusion; the story blooms.” — from “The Last Sunday in October” by Jean LeBlanc

We are all storytellers—you, me, all of us. At least one story waits in us all, waiting to be born, to make it free into the world, somehow, and change things or people, just a little bit. Perhaps children are the ones who know this best. I know I learned this from a child a long time ago...

Ian was a rambunctious four year old when I began taking him to and from pre-school to earn spending money while still in college. He was being raised by his dad, a red-haired, green-eyed Irishman who was completely devoted to this little dark-haired, deep olive-skinned fellow whom you can imagine always had questions to ask about his origins. And although it was his dad who was the usual recipient of his mental meanderings, once in a while it spilled over to me.

“Tom-Tom,” he addressed me as soon as I walked in that day. He had named me this because my voice reminded him of a beating drum he remembered from his last life back in Africa, the land his absent mother had returned to soon after his birth.

“But, Ian,” I had pointed out to him at the time, “you never lived in Africa.”

“No, Tom-Tom, not this life-time. The one I lived before this one. It might even have been the one before that, I’m not sure. But I know it was Africa. I remember the elephants.”

So like so many other inconsistencies, I had let it go. Tom-Tom my name remained. Now back to this day so etched into my memory.

“I’m mad at Dad, you know,” Ian continued on. “I didn’t even talk to him this morning before he left for work.”

“What happened little guy, I thought you and your dad were best buds?”

“Well, it all happened last night. You know how Dad always tucks me in after he tells me a story and I’ve said my prayers?”

“Yep. You’ve filled me in on those stories quite often. Especially the scary ones.”

I poked him from behind to add emphasis. This time he seemed removed from my special effects. He went back to his story.

“Well, last night I said to him: “Dad, it wasn’t always like this. I mean you telling me a story, then kissing me good-night.”

“Yes, I’ve always done that, Ian. Even when you were still in the crib and sound asleep. I’ve always done that, ever since you were born.”

“But I don’t mean this life, Dad. I mean the one before when I was the tribal chief and you were my little boy. Then I used to tuck you in and place a kiss on the top of your head. Don’t you remember?