When I stopped nursing my son to sleep, I needed another way to make him happy and sleepy, so I would turn off the lights and snuggle up close and make up a story or two before singing him sweetly to sleep. He adores my stories, no matter how silly, boring, or bad they may be.
Some nights I don't have the energy, but when I do, often I am amazed about how I am able to weave a decent story and teaching together on the whim of the moment. It has also inspired my son to make up his own stories, which he is getting better at, like me, with practice.
Snuggle up close, and listen to tonight's story about a spirited hippo. My son made me tell it twice, so I guess it's not too bad. This story, by the way, sounds much better acted out than it reads:
Once upon a time there was a big blue hippopotamus. He was a happy hippo, with two big teeth on top and two big teeth on the bottom. This happy hippo loved to run out into the bright green meadow every morning, and jump around merrily snapping his big mouth in the wind while trying to eat the flowers. He especially loved the yellow, orange and red flowers in the meadow.
Until one day, he came upon a cricket. There the happy hippo was laughing heartily as his twisted in the air bounding after a buttercup, when the cricket shouted out: WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? The hippo stopped and looked down and saw the little cricket standing there with a scowl on his face.
You almost ate me, shouted the cricket.
Oh, said the hippo, I am so sorry, please excuse me.
Humph, said the cricket, who do you think you are anyways?
Oh, I am just a hippo who loves to run and dance and eat flowers in the meadow.
Well, that is absurd. Who has ever heard of a hippo who runs and dances and eats flowers? Hippos don't do that. Such behavior is unruly.
Oh, said the hippo, I never thought of it like that. I suppose you are right.
So the hippo, found a nice spot in the shade of an old oak tree and sat down and sighed a big sigh. And then sighed again more slowly. And then sighed again even more sadly and slowly.
There he came back and sat each morning for days and days, and weeks and weeks, and months and months until...
Another cricket came and bounced up onto the hippos lap and said very chipperly: hello there!
Oh, said the hippo slowly, hi there.
Whatcha doing, asked the cricket.
Nothing, moped the hippo. Just sitting here.
What's wrong, asked the cricket.
Oh....I guess I am just bored. And maybe a bit sad.
Well, what do you like to do then?
Oh...I dunno. I used to love to run and jump and dance and eat flowers in the meadow.
Well, said the cricket, why don't you go do that?
Can't, said the hippo. It wouldn't be very hippo-like.
Oh, I see, said the cricket. And he became really quiet. There the two sat for some time, quietly. Until the cricket spoke again. Well, it seems to me that you are happiest when you are running freely eating flowers. While other hippos are happiest sitting silently in a pond watching the world go by. Just because no other hippo loves to do what you do, doesn't mean that you shouldn't do what you do.
Uh, I am not sure I am following you, said the hippo.
Well then, let me ask you a question hippo. Are you hurting anyone by running around in the meadow dancing and eating flowers?
No, said the hippo.
How does it make you feel, asked the cricket.
Wonderful, said the hippo, truly wonderful. The hippo began to think about running in the meadow, and slowly he began to light up, and shine almost like the sun.
The cricket spoke again. What I am saying is that you need to follow your heart hippo. If it tells you to run and dance and chop flowers, then I think you should listen to it. Don't worry what other people think, or you will continue to sit around moping all day.
Oh, said the hippo. I suppose that makes sense too.
And off went the hippo, bounding through the meadow again with even more joy than before. And from that day on, the hippo remained a happy hippo.
If you happen upon a bright green meadow this summer, remember the hippo and have yourself a dance and see how you feel.