Jackie Tales: The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them

Jackie Tales: The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them

by Jackie Torrence




One of America's best-known and best-loved storytellers shares some of her most often requested tales and her proven techniques for enchanting young listeners in this collection of 16 "Jackie Tales".

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780874836516
Publisher: August House Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 08/01/2001
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 11.50(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

MY TALE By Jackie Torrence

I was just a little girl when I was taken in by Grandma and Grandpa, because my mother lived in Chicago and I could be with her. They lived in Second Creek in North Carolina just a little way from where I live today, and I spent six years of my childhood there. It was a wonderful time for me. But I was all by myself out there, alone with two old folks who did know what in the world to do with this little girl.

And you know, I was born with a speech impediment. I had impacted teeth, so I couldn't talk real good. Grandpa would always caution folks, "Don't answer yes to anything she says 'cause you don't know what she's saying." So everybody would just say, "Hah? when I'd ask them something. But I talked all the time anyway, I talked day and night. We'd go for a walk and I'd say, "Granddaddy what's that?" He'd say, "That's a tree." "Granddaddy, what's that? He'd say, "That's a rock." "What's that, Granddaddy?" And he'd say, "That's another tree." Then, when he got tired of me just talking and talking and talking, he'd say, "Wait a minute. Listen." I'd say, "What are we listening for?" He'd say, "Well, I ain't gonna be able hear it if you keep running your mouth." Then they'd put me in be at six o'clock when they finally had enough of me.

When you hear me tell my stories today, what you see and hear is a little girl who played by herself for years. Even after my grandad died and my aunt Mildred took me in, nobody played with me because my aunt didn't like other children in thehouse. So I played alone. I told stories out loud, and I practiced voice all the time, making gestures and all, because I made believe I was on television.

But what I really wanted to be was a dancer. I used to leap across the floor on my toes, Bam! Bam! Bam! My aunt Mildred would say, "You know, they don't make tutus for elephants." Oh, she was something, my aunt was; she kept after me all the time about one thing or another. So I danced with my hands. I'd sit in front o the mirror on Sunday afternoon and I'd watch ballet on that program Omnibus. They would make those moves and I would make them with my hands, you know; that's about as far as I could rise off the floor. Oh, it was wonderful, I just loved to do that.

But I still had that speech impediment. It just engulfed my life. In school, when I'd open my mouth to speak, everybody in the class would tuck their heads down on their desks and laugh. Well, that really hurt my feelings. If they weren't laughing at what I said, they laughed because I was fat and pigeon-toed and couldn't run without falling flat on my face. Many a day I'd go home with dry tracks of tears streaking down my face. My dear aunt would say, "What have you been crying about?" "They said I was fat." She'd just get so angry. "You sure are silly. If they say that to you every day, then you oughtta believe it."

Then in fifth grade, I had a teacher named Miss Pauline Pharr. She was kind, sweet, just out of college, and she loved her class. Well, we were all exceptionally lovable children, you know. Miss Pharr gave us an assignment. "We've got two weeks before Halloween," she said. "I want everybody to be creative and write a good scary story. Then everybody will read their story to the class." And I thought, "Oh boy, I'm dead. I can write the story, but I'm gonna have a hard time reading it." Well, I'm sitting there fighting back the tears, then they started leaking down my face, then I started with the jerks.

But sitting right next to me was James, the class tattletale. He was watching me. He told everything. He decided to tell. His hand went up, then his other hand went up. "Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Miss Pauline Pharr! Miss Pharr! Miss Pauline! Miss Pauline Pharr!" And he pointed at me. "She ain't writing." Miss Pharr saw that I was crying, so she came over and bent real low. "What's wrong?" And I told her. Everybody was laughing. But Miss Pharr said, "Don't pay them any mind. I tell you what. If you write a good story, cross all your t's and dot your i's, put all the commas in and spell every word right, I'll read that story for you. That'll fix 'em." And I said, "Okay."

I went about writing it, and let me tell you, I double-checked every word to make sure it was spelled right. Every t was crossed and I made little circles at the top of the i's just to make sure they had a dot on them. I wrote about Mr. Henry and a mule named Ned on a scary road on Halloween night (see page 192). Miss Pharr thought it was wonderful. She read it and gave me two great big red check marks. I didn't have to cry that day 'cause she patted me and said, "You did real good." And I thought, "You did too." I really believe my healing began with that story.

And then in-the ninth grade I found my favorite teacher, Abna Aggrey Lancaster. She worked with me night and day on the way I talked, she helped me in school and she helped me in life. I was ashamed to stand in front of people, you know. I wanted to hide the fact that I was fat. If I had to stand onstage, I couldn't hide anything. But Miss Lancaster said, "No, darling, that's all right. The way we get by that is with the hair. You have lovely hair." She said, "Fix your hair, fix your face, and wear very nice clothes." I said, "But how can I hide my fat?" She said, "You don't hide it, you feel good about it. You're not the slimmest thing in the world, we know we're fat, so why get upset about it? If we work on the hair, nobody will see anything else." Miss Lancaster said, "Are you going to succumb to what a few people think? And miss out on life? No? Well, let's get on with it then."

That's what she helped me understand, that everybody can find their own place of happiness. Yes, you are born in this world to carry a burden, everybody has a burden, but carry it proudly, 'cause if you look over there, somebody's got one much bigger than yours. For years I was told I was going to be happy when I lost weight. I never lost weight. I tried my best to be slender two or three times and I nearly killed myself. Then, when I couldn't walk so well and I landed in that wheelchair, I wanted to die. I like to walk out on a stage, you know, I like to swing my dress out when I sit down like my aunt Sally But now I can't do that. So I thought, "For some reason, God put me in this wheelchair; here again is my burden, so I'll deal with it." I've decided to be happy. I think, "Shoot, this is great. Like Grandma said, 'You gotta make yourself bloom where you're planted."'



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