Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Evil Storyteller and Me

When I was about eight, my dad wrote a short chapter book called "The Mystery of the Evil Storyteller." It's a story of children who mysteriously disappear during the library's story times when a certain dazzling woman reads. He fictionalized our family in this children's book, using my sister and me as the main characters, and himself and our mom as our in-the-book parents. My cousin and her father are in the story, too, and my dad's childhood friend even pops in as the police chief. The character versions of my sister and I use our clever reasoning skills and thinking caps to gather clues that solve the mystery and bring back the missing children.

I read it yesterday, thirty years later.

If I've read it before, I don't remember. Like my own manuscripts, my dad's is yet to be published--he had forwarded it to me for feedback, to see if it was worth dusting off, revising, and trying to get published (it is).

I was blown away by how fun it was to have myself frozen in time as a child with my sister in a book. There I was, a clue-seeking, pigtail-sporting little sister! Katie-the-character was afraid of being kidnapped but too interested in solving the mystery to worry about it too much. My serious big sister was in there, too, with her big sister way of telling the best way to go about figuring things out.

What fun to go back in time like this! But it was more than a little sad, too.

After finishing the last page of my dad's book and getting that last glimpse of what my family was like back, I felt sobered. When I was eight, my parents were married, and my father included in his book many of my mom's little idiosyncrasies, funny things only she would do that I forgot he once knew. His character in the book called her "Kath" instead of her full name, teased her just like he did when I was a kid, when we were a family under one roof. The character versions of myself and my sister interacted with our parents naturally, addressing both of them together sometimes, and thought nothing of it.

Even though they were married for twenty-two years, legally divorcing one month after my eighteenth birthday, those years seem like a closed storybook. There's a part of me that does not fully believe those years existed, those memories really created. It's funny how a relationship that was once all I knew, once so very real can seem like it never happened after enough time has passed. Time dusts over the strong feelings and true beliefs that once existed with strong certainty.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I guess it just is.


  1. Your dad's story sounds fascinating. How wonderful to have yourself as part of the story. I could actually relate because I have an older sister who seemed so much like yours...and I was very much like you. I am sorry that this was so bittersweet though. Divorce hurts no matter what the age of the children. I hope that time has healed the pain. There was lots of love expressed in that story...and that is what is important. Now...find a publisher for that book...I'd like to see it in the bookstores!

  2. What a treasure to come up and experience all over again. I can tell that it has stirred up memories - as all time capsules tend to do. Let us know more about this book!

  3. You wonderfully depicted the joy and yet the sobering experience reliving moments of the past can be. My mom asked me to convert some old movie reels to VCR tapes long ago....it was both hard and wonderful to watch....

  4. I think this is a beautiful keepsake. How incredible to have your Dad's storytelling, and to have the story be about you and your family! I realize it is bittersweet, having seen so much change in the ensuing years. But, wow, I would love to have this from my Dad!!

  5. It certainly was real, but like a book, happened and has ended? I wonder, though, if that's also just part of reflecting on 30 years ago. Beautiful and tough all at the same time...kinda like life.