Last June, in the days before I left for Wediko, I carefully checked off item after item on the packing list until I finally arrived at “props to make things fun.” That flummoxed me. What would be fun for seventeen-year-old girls was completely different than what would be fun for eight-year-old boys. I didn’t know which cabin I would be put in, so how was I supposed to know which props to pack? While I was hemming and hawing over the pros and cons of bringing a book of word games, my mother popped into my room and tossed an unopened package of the story dice onto my bag. “Here, take these. I have two sets and don’t have any other use for them. They’re small. I’m sure you’ll figure out something to do with them. Each of the cubes has six different drawings. The idea is to roll them and then make up a story that includes each picture.” So into the bag they went. Little did I know they would be one of my go-to tricks in the following eight weeks.
I pulled the dice out for the first time on day one when I was fishing with one of the girls. We rolled them, looked at the pictures, and made up a farfetched story. I don’t think the story dice ever managed to stay in my backpack for more than half-a-day at a time until the kids got off the bus on day forty-five. I hadn’t considered myself a storyteller until Wediko. I guess I never had to be. But I’d spent my early life steeped in storybooks and, over the summer, I discovered that I could create a narrative, or revamp a vague memory of a story, with ease.
Below is a re-creation of one of my Wediko-style tales a la Rory’s Story Cubes. I dedicate this to the Pegasus girls whose imaginations never ceased to lift my spirits.
Luna the Turtle Makes a Friend
Once upon a time there was a turtle name Luna. She was a very small turtle and she loved her name very much. “Luna, Luna, Luna” she sang. One night she looked up at the sky. It was a crystal clear night with sparkling stars and a very, very, very big crescent moon. While Luna gazed at the moon a sudden urge to sing stirred up her soul and she began to croon, “Luna, Luna, Luna.” All of a sudden, the face in the moon opened her mouth and spoke. “Why are you singing my name, little turtle?” she said.
“What do you mean,” said Luna, “I’m singing my name!”
“What a coincidence!” replied the Moon. “Luna is my name too!” Luna the moon and Luna the turtle spent the whole rest of the night talking, until Luna the moon finally sank down beyond the horizon.
They continued talking over the next few nights, but Luna the turtle got worried. Her friend was slowly shrinking. Finally, one night, her friend didn’t appear at all. Luna the turtle decided to go find her. First she mailed a letter. “Dear Luna,” she wrote, ”I am very worried that you are sick. You got thinner and thinner and then you disappeared. I am going to come visit you to make you feel better. Love Luna.”
Luna the turtle bought a plane ticket that said “TO: Moon City.” Soon she had boarded the plane and was looking out the window as they flew away from her pond and over cities, mountains, rivers, and farm fields. Then a dark cloud approached and the plan began to bump up and down. The next thing Luna knew, there was rain pounding the window and lightning sparking across the sky. Luna the turtle was worried again. She had never been on a plane before. “What if the plane catches fire?” she asked the flight attendant. “What if we fall out of the sky?”
“Don’t worry” said the flight attendant, “planes are made to not catch fire.” She added, “did you know that some people even think it is fun to jump out of planes with parachutes?” Luna was intrigued. The lady continued, “yes, they turn a key and a door in the plane opens up, and then they jump out, release their parachute, and float gently down to earth.”
Finally the plane was on the ground again. Luna was confused. She had expected to go to the moon. She looked around and saw a helpful looking man at a desk. She asked why she was not on the moon. He exclaimed, “oh, we don’t take people to the moon. You would need a rocket for that. This ticket just brought you to Moon City, Idaho.”
Luna the turtle was disappointed. She trudged out the doors into the night, in a city that she didn’t know. She looked up in the sky and miracle of miracles, there was her friend Luna the moon!
“Where did you go? And how did you get here?” Luna the turtle asked her friend. “I didn’t see you on the plane.”
“Silly friend’ said Luna the moon. “I can be seen everywhere on Earth!” “Sometimes I am very large, and sometimes I am very small, but I am always here.”
The best stories we told this past summer were simple but packed with meaning. Luna the Turtle, for example, taught that people can still be with you even when they aren’t physically present, that what you’re looking for is sometimes right in front of you, and that everyone needs to sleep (one I tried very hard to emphasize). Creating stories like this taught me that “props to make things fun” aren’t so much objects as attitudes and imagination. The physical items were entry points to all the talents and interests kids and staff alike already had nestled in our minds.