Reading to the Children
In my twenties I lived back at home with my parents for a while. My dad, being a generous man, made my sandwiches for work every day. I guess I must have left the sandwiches languishing in the fridge on one too many occasions because he began leaving me a little note saying, “Susie, your sandwiches are in the fridge.”
Quite quickly I noticed small drawings began to appear in the corner of the notes, usually a little sandwich with arms and legs. It wasn’t long before the pictures became increasingly more complex and took over the notes. They often told a story and related to the filling inside the sandwich such as a crab sandwich person resting in a deckchair on the beach. Within weeks the notes were taking Dad longer to draw than the sandwiches were taking to make. Many a time I’d race out of the door to get to work and grab my sandwiches from the fridge only to hear him call out from the dining room, “Don’t take them out of the fridge yet, I haven’t finished the note!”
Thankfully I had the foresight to keep all these notes and eventually they ended up in a scrap book. A few years later we sadly lost our dad and I was even more grateful that I’d kept his little sketches. Eventually my sister and I decided to write some stories each involving his characters which we called ‘The Sandwich People’. The stories involve a Cream Cheese Avalanche, Low Calorie Bread that floats away, Hen’s that want to be free and many more ideas.
A friend of mine who helps to organise the VDub Island Festival asked if we’d like to take the Bedtime Story Slot and so it was with slight trepidation that we arrived on the first night to approach our debut reading of these stories to the children of VDub.
The first night wasn’t entirely without issue, as unfortunately the stage we were meant to be reading on had been flooded out during the day and had no electrics. So we were asked to read our story in a café tent. This turned out to be very fortuitous. It was a cosy little tent with a small stage. The grown ups were able to sit on comfortable sofas and have a drink whilst their little ones sat cross legged on a rug in front of the stage. I suspect that only my microphone was working that first night because it seemed that my sister had to shout, her voice grew higher and higher as she struggled to be heard as easily as me. However, the few children who listened, albeit by accident, to our story seemed to like it and we finished by reminding them we’d be back the next night.
I’d be lying if I said that reading again wasn’t on my mind for much of the next day. It did somewhat hang over our heads like the Sword of Damocles and we wondered if the second night’s reading would go better and perhaps be enjoyed by slightly more children. We arrived at the campsite and arranged to continue in the café tent as we felt it was a lovely venue. As I queued waiting to use one of the delightful festival toilets I was asked by a lady, “Are you one of the people who read the story last night?” I gestured in the positive and was delighted by her response that her children had loved it and were waiting in the tent for tonight’s story. So we approached the stage a tad more buoyant that night and read to the slightly increased number of children now sat on the rug. Microphone issues sorted, I think our voices were of equal volume and probably both a bit squeaky with fear. We were glad to see a few children had returned from the first night and as we finished reading we asked them all to bring along their favourite soft toy the next night.
Night three rolled around with the usual consternation but we were pleased to see children filing into the tent with their teddies in hand. This third night was made most memorable by the fact that as soon as I began reading I realised that I should’ve removed my fleece. As I read on I became hotter and hotter and it was obvious to me that I was about to have a very public hot flush (damn you, hormones). Realising that the choices were either to faint or rip the fleece off, I chose the latter and turning to my sister I frantically whispered, “I have to get this off!” I then proceeded to pull the fleece over my head, exposing my belly in the process. More power to my sister who, with amazing reflexes, grabbed hold of my t shirt and pulled it down to cover my, less than flat, tummy. She looked slightly shocked at my impromptu striptease but being a professional, immediately began asking the children who’d bought their teddies and what their names were. Once I had composed myself we continued to read and the story was well received.
The last night came all too soon and we were thrilled to observe the greatest number of children of the week thus far. Many of them had returned from previous nights and one delightful little pair (who belonged to the toilet queue mum), had attended every night. We handed out some copies of our dad’s sketches and, as every night, explained the reason behind our stories.
I think by the last night we’d really nailed it. We were confident and we settled into it with ease. The children were lovely and it was wonderful to see some of them cuddling up to their parents in true ‘bedtime’ style. My sister had some great ideas, not least the one where she wore a silly hat that related to the story every night. (Please accept my apology for poo-pooing this idea initially, Helen.) Whilst it was a huge trek over to VDub every night along with the fact that we probably spent a small fortune enabling our own children to climb the wall, bounce on the castle and munch their way through the Chinese food stall, I would say it was a success. Our dad would’ve been so proud of us for getting up on stage and overjoyed that his little creations were being spoken about with such enthusiasm by children who were born into a world he had sadly already left.
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