“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
~ Philip Pullman
We meander into the common area at the care home where my mother-in-love lives: Gerry pushing her in her chair, me holding Maya the Wonder Dog (so dubbed by us as a result of the way her presence seems to perk up the spirits of my husband’s mom and the other residents).
A large number of residents are gathered around a long table, some upright in wheelchairs, others semi-reclined, all paying rapt attention to a white-bearded rotund man who is reading aloud. His voice projects so that the aging residents can hear him. His hands sometimes gesture, his eyes often rise from the page to look about the table. He is, to be sure, a gifted reader. I wonder if he is in the theatre.
We pause for a moment and I am enthralled by the storytelling. I would love to linger and listen.
The others in my party aren’t as enchanted by the storytelling as I, so we move to find a quieter area. We gather around a table; Gerry and I sit and try to draw my mother-in-love out in conversation by telling her what’s been happening since we saw her a week ago. She holds Maya on her lap, giving her her full attention.
My eyes drift over to the storytelling as it wraps up and the reader closes his book. Aides begin pushing wheelchairs out of the room and the man rises from the table, tucks the book under his arm, and strides from the room.
My mind wanders. I imagine a family huddled around a fire listening to the father read. How enriching it would be to listen to a story and use one’s imagination to see it played out. I wonder if Gerry and I might take up such a practice; he used to read aloud to me when we were first married.
I imagine myself, should I live long enough to reside in such a place, having the opportunity to listen to stories read aloud like this now and then. How wonderful the thought!
All that, in the moment it takes for my gaze to wander to the reading area. I return my attention to my husband and mother-in-love and Maya, who is now struggling to get over onto my lap. I smile and begin telling of the cherry chocolate jam I made the day before.