Friday, December 12, 2014

On the 12th Day of Advent, 2014...


Yesterday, I told stories at Lake Travis Community Library, one of my favorite places to tell. Morgan the librarian and I have been working together for many years, ever since the library was in a strip mall and I performed in the shop window. Now they have a grand new building which better represents the Lakeway community.

Librarians never know how many patrons will turn up for story-time but summer can be pretty busy with parents trying to find things for their children to do, and Halloween is always packed. It looked like yesterday's seasonal story-time would be a wash-out -- at ten minutes to performance time, there wasn't a child in the building and I was already telling Morgan that I'd come back do a show on another day. At the last moment, several parents with children arrived and I had a small but attentive audience for The Shoemaker and the Elves and The Baker's Dozen.

I always ask the children to join in with my stories, and both parents and children (Morgan the librarian too!) participated from start to finish. One particular little boy, who'd come along with his dad, was rapt with delight -- you might have thought he was the storyteller, so involved was he. When story-time was over, he approached me with, "Thank you for the stories. May I tell you a story now?" To be honest, I had to get back in 5:00 o'clock traffic so as to prepare for my evening show at the Austin Playhouse, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily, but how could I resist such a request? It's a storyteller's role to be story listener too, and we're always encouraging children to tell tales. These are the storytellers of the future, after all.

This Kindergartner began, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas, when all through the house..." telling the poem, word for word. At one point, he forgot what came next and his little face crumpled up, eyes filling with tears. I didn't know the text well enough to prompt him so I said, "It's okay, it'll come to you..." but when it didn't and he was ready to sob, his dad said quietly, "I sprang from the bed..." And the little boy was back on track!

When he got to, "Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!" he was so radiantly happy that he brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to hug him! I didn't though because I didn't want to interrupt him. It was his moment to shine!

When he'd finished (perfectly, I might add) I applauded his presentation, and thanked his dad for teaching him. Seriously, I love my job!

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
‘Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!’
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound,
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
and laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.

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