A lot of stuff is talked about the fine line between fiction and fact, truth and lies. The truth is, we only ever tell as much of the truth as we know at the time, and when it comes to story telling, my truth may be your lies, or vice versa.
This was brought home to me this morning by my six-year-old grandson, Taiji. Often, when we sit and have breakfast together, his little sister Kayo (three years old) launches into some story of things that have happened to her, and he will sit and make eyes at me and shake his head, and insist she is telling stories. I explain to him that this is her reality, she is telling us what she lives and imagines, and it is not lies.
This morning, I drove slowly through the Eco Village to their house, on a cloudy, cool morning, with rain still lying in puddles on the ground. I passed several groups of kangaroos; some half-grown ones, near the road, looked at me with gentle attention as I drove past, and then went on cropping the grass or simply gazing around them.
At breakfast, as we ate omelette and potato chippies, with tomato paste to dip the chippies in, I spoke of the kangaroos, and said I thought this was their paradise. Taiji looked at me seriously across the table and said: ‘you know, something really weird happened one morning, and when I tell adults, they say it can’t be true. But it really happened.’
I encouraged him to tell me about it; the story went on for some minutes, with actions by him to illustrate, and Kayo and I both sat wrapt. Every now and then he broke the story by saying ‘it was so weird, but it did happen!’
I’ve lost his words, but I’ll try to summarise it. One morning he woke early, and looked out the window, and saw a group of kangaroos. There was also a radio/music player there. One of them (perhaps accidentally) leaned across and pressed the Play button, and music started. And they started to dance. [This is where the actions came in, which I can’t show you. He would get down from the table and strut a little, thrusting his hips forward, or moving his arms, swaying his bottom, nodding his head. A couple of time Kayo got down and did similar little routines, and he would say: ‘yes, that’s how they did it! How does she know that?’]. The dance went on, and a boy and girl kangaroo got married; she was wearing a bridal veil and white dress, and he was wearing a hat, a bow tie and smart pants. After a while, he said, (after another reminder of how weird this was and no adult he’d told about it believed him) he went out, and died their fur in different colours. The boys were in winter colours, the girls in oranges and brighter colours.
I wish I’d had a recorder and a video camera. I can’t begin to capture the magic of the story as he told it, and the actions of the dance. I was entranced, and made no comment about believing or not believing it. He went to the bathroom, and when he came back, he said: ‘Pinocchio’s nose grew long because he told lies, didn’t it?’ We talked a little about the Pinocchio story, and I thought to myself he was struggling with trying to fit his kangaroo’s party into the adult construction of reality. I wondered if I should have reassured him that the imagination has its own truth, but I decided not to comment, simply to listen and enjoy his gift.
PS I’ve remembered he said that when the party was over, they put the fancy clothes and hats into their pouches!