Storytelling, or, The Myth of the Happy JCB

(Sponges, bin liners, S nappies)

I read Caveboy stories in bed last night for the first time, I think, since Rosa Nour was born. He hugged the green and rainbow-splotched rabbit with the serene eyes that my German sister-in-law (and my brother) knitted for him when he was born, the first time he’s really done that with a toy. We read – at his insistence – an idiotic Bob the Builder story, the sort Caveman declares are written for invalids, him pointing out all the ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ machines, and me pointing out that heavy machinery doesn’t really get happy or sad (killjoy!).

Then, before and after Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham – omitting to say no, darling eggs don’t really come in that colour, and trains don’t really fly off cliffs onto boats – I tell him the story he always asks for: ‘Story of Papa making the hooooouse’. This story grows longer the further into the build Caveman gets; now he has grown bored of the bit where the old roof and floor get smashed up, the Bobcat digs the hole for the foundations and even – lawks! – the bit about the concrete mixer.

(He has been so obsessed with said machine that he would stir in his sleep some nights and murmur reverently ‘Cement mixer….’ Out of desperation I would sometimes sit him on my lap scrolling through pages of Google images of concrete mixers, just to get a bit of quiet.)

Our bedtime story skips forward to the lime and hemp-fibre mix of insulation which goes into the roof, ferried there by a wondrous contraption – a miniature crane, a montecarga in Spanish or ‘monkey cadder’ in Shamsese – which raises the wheelbarrows full of wet sloppy mix to the roof. Fascinating stuff for a two year old who is already conversant in the finer points of eco building, able to talk fluently about paddle mixers, cannabrics and hydraulic lime. Seriously.

At some point, after I’ve turned off the light and I think he’s already dozing off, he rolls over and says, ‘He’s lost Nemo. He’s sad.’ I cringe: God, I let him watch Finding Nemo two days running! When he was sleepy, thinking – foolishly – he’d pass out with boredom, meaning that the Disney-dictated messages will have penetrated even deeper into his tender brain!
Crazed, demented woman! Now his poor stunted imagination consists of frantic fish, vegetarian sharks, happy/sad JCBs, and none of the nice fluffy Steiner-esque things I’d hoped to people it with! You know, pine cones, wooden pegs, horses, homemade bread…

Then, after a sleepy silence, he says very seriously, ‘I’m a brave boy. I’m a tiger.’ I melt laughing, and hugging and kissing. Imagination unstunted after all.

Mental note: must stop getting paranoid about scarring my children for life. Let go of the story I tell myself that I am doing it wrong, the expectations that I perpetually fail to live up to. In fact, throw the whole story of who I tell the world I am into the air, release it like a swift and watch it curve out of view behind a rooftop, sail out of sight for a time. It’ll return; it nests here. But I could do with a moment just to be storyless.

2 thoughts on “Storytelling, or, The Myth of the Happy JCB

  1. ‘But I could do with a moment just to be storyless.’ hhhhhmmmmm wonderfully put, when I look into little Zade’s face I think of how he is in this amazing state of, well, storylessness, I wish I could even imagine that state again…

    • The incredible thing is that we ALL started out that way, every single one of us. Little witnesses to the present, without the clouds of imagination and I-am-this or I-am-that (or categorise me like this or that!) to get in the way. Real meditation, I reckon.

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