Stories From The Big Book

Posted May 23rd, 2010 in Memories of Horst and tagged by neil

I posted this photo on my flickr stream a few days ago, and wrote about what it meant to me. I wanted to repeat it here; maybe expand on it a bit as well. This photo here is special to me, perhaps even one of my most favorite photos I’ve taken of him… because it reminds me of my father reading to me when I was a child.

When I was a young boy, I remember a tradition in our house at bedtime. My father would read us kids a story at bedtime. I’m not sure how long it actually lasted, but the times I do recall where from when I was between 7 and 10 years old. Now this wasn’t your typical story from a book, this was a story from an imaginary book.

We would all gather in one of our bedrooms after we’d gotten our pajamas on. He would ask us if we wanted a story from the little book or the big book. Of course, we always asked for one from the big book. He would then pretend to bring out a huge book, open it up and start reading from it. His stories were always totally made up on the spot just for us.

When my own daughter, Lauren, was smaller, I would do my best to mimic this bedtime activity. Only I wasn’t able to keep the stories as original as my father had done. Still, it was fun to watch her face as I made up the story. Her favorite story was about a girl (named Laura) that would not want to go to sleep at night because she was all excited about going to the beach the next day. No matter how many times her dad would tell her to go to sleep, she would keep saying no. The girl ended up staying awake until the morning. And when her dad went to wake her up to go to the beach, she was too tired and just wanted to sleep all day. So, she missed out on going to the beach with her dad.

About a week before he passed, I reminisced with my father about the imaginary stories from the big book. He smiled and was amazed that I remembered those nights. I told him that I remembered one story about a snowball that some boy started rolling downhill, and it kept rolling on it’s own and got bigger and bigger as it went, scooping up all the kids in it’s path.

Then, I explained to him that I did the same thing with Lauren when she was little, and I gave him the condensed version of the ‘up all night’ story above. He looked at me and said “I sure hope that the story was longer than that!!” I laughed and told him it was definitely longer as the intent of the stories were to get Lauren to go to sleep. I also assured him that this tradition would continue with Brody.

Brody has a print of this photo in a collage frame that is hung on his bedroom wall. When Melanie or I point to it and ask who that is, Brody says “Pop!” He will most certainly know that Papa gave me all of the stories from the big book.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Kiki says:

    This is such a touching story, Neil…..

    It reminds me of how this same trick worked a treat in my family. I am the oldest of four and for many, many years, the three oldest girls slept in one tiny bedroom, with folding-down beds. Only two weeks ago I told this very same ritual to a visiting friend: As the oldest of us it was my ‘bedtime duty’ to ensure that my sisters were asleep before I allowed myself to go to sleep. I therefore told them invented stories, always in the dark, so they had to be very colourful and innovative! When I had made sure that both of them slept their fitful sleep of young girls who need their beauty rest….., I couldn’t sleep because – what the 2 of them didn’t know – was that I had a croc (or an alligator) under MY fold-down bed and I couldn’t go to the toilet once it was quiet in the appartment because the croc would just wait for me to step into my house shoes to snatch my ankle….. What sounds absolutely hilarious now was a matter of great earnest to me at that time – so, in order to get my sis to sleep and NOT to fall asleep myself – I invented more and more side-tracked-stories! Then, when my sisters asked the evening after to repeat the story of yesterday I had a hard time to come up with something similar…. which of course needed to be topped-up with a continuation of the tale!!!

    It’s actually a miracle that I turned out quite well adjusted; I could have become a total nerd by the time I turned an adult!!!! 🙂

    Thank you for this wonderful story…. PLEASE don’t give up bedtime stories; invented or true ones – they are so important to children!!!!


  2. dannie says:

    Your story, Neil, confirms to me that Horst was just as wonderful a person in “real-life” as he was in flickr-life…

    I liked to make up stories for my girls, too, and now when I see my nieces and nephews (Horst knew how I can’t wait for grandbabies, but evidently I’m going to have to, LOL) Anyways, when I see my nieces and nephews, only about once a year, they always ask for a repeat performance of the last story… and heaven forbid, I should miss a detail!

  3. Cheryl C. says:

    I loved this story and the photo that goes with it. It does not surprise me though because it was so obvious how much he loved his grandchildren and a man like that also loves his own children.
    He was unique in that he loved many yet he made everyone feel like they were the only one.
    It is weeks now and I still miss him. I’ve saved 4 of his notes to me. Wished I had kept them all.
    Thanks for this page. I check it frequently. xoxo