I usually don’t tell at birthday parties because there’s cake! And I’m competing against it. The preoccupation in a child’s mind about the party favours, the delicious eats, the games that are lined up and what not are too many. Once I was even signalled by an anxious parent to finish the story fast so the cake could be cut and devoured. And in another instance, I had one inquisitive kid who peeped behind the puppet theatre in the middle of the show and screamed, “Eiiii, it’s Aunty only da!” You can imagine what that led to. Although the money’s great for telling at a birthday, it hasn’t been the most conducive atmosphere, at least so far, so I usually don’t take on those assignments.
It was my neighbour’s son’s birthday. I was invited, not to tell but to chaperone my two-year old. And have some cake, homemade pizza and garlic bread, chips, cookies and juice, in the process. Just as I was on the way to her house, I got a text from her asking me if I would mind telling the story of ‘The Giving Tree’ by Shel Silverstein. I didn’t reply to the message, not knowing how to refuse not only because of my stance on birthday party performances but also because she’s a good friend. Sometimes words fail even storytellers! To make matters worse, I wasn’t carrying a gift.
The table was laid, the song was sung, the candles blown, the cake cut, the eager, hungry tummies filled and the decible levels began to soar. My neighbour asked me if I would tell the story and yes, I agreed. She quickly quietened the kids and sat them down on the floor. “Shhhh…now aunty’s going to tell us a story!” “Listen without making a sound. There’s something for you at the end of the story.” And so, I started. Quickly, the kids caught on to the rhythm of the story and filled in the part, “and the tree was happy”, wherever it appeared. At the end of this very poignant tale, the kids were visibly happy that the tree was finally reunited with the boy she always loved despite him selfishly cutting her down to just a stump. They didn’t think much of the boy, though. And as promised, my neighbour brought out a bag of saplings she had bought as party favours for the kids. “That’s why I wanted you to tell”, she smiled and said.
And I was happy 🙂