Bedtime stories and the mind of a child

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Bedtime Stories.”

Bedtime stories were a serious matter in our household, as I remember it. My parents are both lovers of books and good stories and hardly a birthday or Christmas went by without me getting a book. They were also very picky about the illustrations. I remember spending hours (or perhaps it only felt like hours) in bookstores with my mother and she was def having a lot more fun than I was.

It became a running gag, that whenever I received a present I would study the package and look at them mysteriously and say: “let me guess……. is it a book?” And we went on saying this even when the gift was oddly shaped and very obviously NOT a book.

When it comes to bedtime stories though, my memory is blurry. I didn’t even realize this until some years ago when I was telling friends how my father would always tell me stories before I went to sleep, to which my mother responded (with quite some disappointment in her voice): “That’s not true! I read to you every single night! Your dad was often not even home yet when I put you to bed. I think I can count the amount of times he read you stories on two hands!”

Now of course, that last part was obviously an exaggeration (I think), but her point was that she was the one putting me to bed and reading me stories every night and all I remembered was my dad’s stories. I guess the reason those times stuck with me is precisely because it happened only occasionally. The fact that they broke the daily pattern made them special events, in comparison to my mom’s stories, that were just part of the normal routine. (Sorry mom, I’m sure your stories were awesome too….)

I remember there being a couple of books that I enjoyed the most.

It’s actually interesting that the first two are christianity based readings, as I was not raised to be a Christian. I did have a fascination for these things though. Another thing that I find remarkable is that they were actually quite dramatic stories, not necessarily with a happy ending. What I remember of the children’s bible is that I enjoyed the first part, but not so much the second part, being the story of Jesus. No clue why, especially since a lot of the characters in the first part ended up dying or killing each other as well…

clown van godThe Clown of God is a story about a juggling clown named Giovanni, who used to be legendary for his skills. He would travel from village to village and juggle his colored balls to the amazement of the crowds. And the finale of his act involved adding the golden ball, which sent Ooh’s and Aah’s through the crowd. They would applaud him and pay him generously and some would even invite him to dinner. He was very much loved and lived a simple but happy life, until he grew older and people grew bored of him. He became clumsy and started dropping his balls and people drove him away from their homes….

And then one day he arrived in a village with a beautiful church. On a rainy evening, Giovanni entered the church to seek cover and was captivated by the statue of the virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. It struck him that the baby’s face looked so sad. So Giovanni painted his face, took out his colored balls and started to juggle… and he felt his old strength come back to him and he did his act so marvelously, like back in the days….

The next day when the villagers entered the church they found the clown on the floor… dead…. And when they looked at the baby in Mary’s arms they were astonished to see that he was smiling! And in his hands, he held the golden ball……

Isn’t that dramatically beautiful? I still have the book and never saw it anywhere else. This story made such an impact on me as a child that I actually had an imaginary friend called Giovanni. I guess he made me smile too!

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