Jackie Gingrich Cushman

A few days ago, while I was telling my children a story to convey a lesson, Maggie, my oldest child, asked me if the story was real, or a tall tale.  She explained to me that she was learning about tall tales in school, and that tall tales had an element of truth, but were made-up.

This is an excellent question, even for people past the third grade.

Stories create the narratives that take otherwise uninteresting facts and figures and link them to people, making those same facts and figures interesting and relevant.  Facts and figures in a vacuum are often unmoving. 

There are numerous ways stories are communicated.  Stories may be spoken (as they were before the creation of writing), written, sung, or conveyed through images.  All of these methods can be combined to create movies.  

Stories have always held a special place in my life.  When my sister and I were very young, our dad would tell us PeeWee PeteTM stories.  He told these stories while driving long distances.  PeeWee PeteTM was a small person (2 – 3 inches) who was constantly getting into and out of trouble.  Possibly our dad was trying to warn us of challenges we would be encountering throughout our lives against larger forces.  More than likely, he was simply trying to find a distraction for his two children who were rarely quiet.

As we grew older, we moved from oral stories to written stories.  Reading was an escape, transporting me to another time and place, allowing me to become someone else for a while and to leave behind the daily challenges of growing up.  Many nights and weekends passed with all four of our family members glued to our books. My sister and I would lie on the floor.  Dad would pace back and forth across the room as he read and my mom would sit in a chair. 

My love for books and stories grew as I did. By junior high, I had begun placing a paperback inside my math book, enabling me to read during math class.  This was a low risk activity as my mom was a math teacher and could review the material with me at home prior to a test. 

Movies were also one of our family staples.  One of my earliest memories is waking up in the theatre during a western film, peering over the seat in front of me, and seeing a cowboy jump off a cliff onto an Indian, knocking him off of his horse.  As they began wrestling, I put my head in my mother’s lap and went back to sleep easily, as I knew the movie was fiction.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.