On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Alison McGregor writes about her childhood and being inspired to write children’s books by her own mother’s stories of growing up.
Written by Alison McGregor
Another summer in the same backyard with the same rhubarb plant and the same overflowing, mangy-looking gooseberry plant. The monotony of the summer schedule all those years ago seemed prison-like and almost too much to bear. No cottage to try our hand at water sports or fun trips to a theme park or the epitome of all childhood trips, Disneyland. What kind of stories would we have to tell once September rolled around with a summer like this?
My mum did her best to placate our very specific demands. Oftentimes we would travel to a local park for a picnic, try to catch crawfish in the nearby stream, or take a scenic drive to a nearby beach with a few less famous mice around.
Longing For Adventure
During these trips, mum would regale us with stories from her summer holidays long ago. Sounds fun right? But her summers were vastly different from the ones my younger brother and I would experience in Burlington, Ontario.
We would hear about driving through sugar cane fields at top speeds in the back of the pickup truck. Stints of fainting lizards falling from the ceiling and scaring half to death well-to-do ladies in their pearls. We would hear about the inconvenience of elephants when it came to learning how to drive on long dirt roads in Africa. At 13 years old no less. I had to wait until I was 16 before getting behind the wheel with no elephants to worry about. I was, of course, incensed.
The stories were all so fantastical. And made us green with envy. Why would she rub it in our faces that she got to experience elephants, monkeys, and giraffes in her backyard and we had to sit in our same boring suburban backyard with exactly zero elephants to entertain us?
It, unfortunately, got to the point where we asked her to stop telling us these stories on account of the little fire that would burn in our chest which was a combination of jealousy and longing.
Reflections On Childhood Stories
It wasn’t until reflecting on these summers years later after becoming a parent myself that I realized what it was my mum was trying to do. Her stories were told to us so many times, that my brother and I could reenact scenes of elephants blocking the road and jumping into the pool pretending to dodge a school of jellyfish and avoid their painful stings. Me always a willing volunteer to be the jellyfish just for an excuse to slap my brother’s legs without reprisal. We played for hours; well past our fingers pruning. I completely blocked out how much my brother and I looked forward to curling into bed with mum to hear more stories and maybe squeeze in a chapter from The Chronicles of Narnia. Mum did the best voices when reading to us.
We were complete brats. It pains me to admit, but it’s true. We had our blinders on and were razor-focused on what summers should be according to everyone else’s holiday. We became ignorant of the magic mum was trying to create specifically for us. A custom magic summer that went completely over our heads. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with a summer filled with all the adventures my brother and I longed for, but parents, that doesn’t mean that’s what your family needs.
The Magic Of Stories
It may have taken some years for me to fully grasp this, but you are the magician and can cast your own special summer spell for your family. Whatever that may be for you. Trips abroad or to adventure parks are fun, but are they necessary for a summer of a lifetime? No.
For us, the stories of my mum’s colourful and whimsied past were the magic fairy dust sprinkled across our summer memories which makes them glitter in reflection. How lucky we were to hear these outlandish tales that our own mum experienced first-hand. A precious gift of adventure to spark the imagination. It encouraged us to dream large. What a fool I was for not seeing it then. Looking back now, it was a wonderful summer– one for the books even.
As W.B. Yeats said, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” Although it is a lesson I learned late in life it’s one that I keep close to my heart as I raise my young family. It is never truly the place you travel to, but rather, the memories you keep with your family and loved ones that become the true destination. That is where the magic happens.
About Alison McGregor
Moved by the power of storytelling, Alison McGregor became interested in recording her family’s history. Through a wonderful discovery, she found she was related to war heroes, world travelers, scientists, and mischief seekers.
Alison now lives with her own family in Innisfil, Ontario where she keeps her children entertained by telling them of their Granny Antoinette’s adventures growing up all over the world in the children’s book series, Growing Up Antoinette.
The series includes two books so far: Antoinette and The Story of The Jellyfish Monster and Antoinette and The Story of The Invisible Giraffes. Aside from regaling stories from her mother’s adventuresome upbringing, she is constantly inspired by her two young children and mischievous mutt, Rupert, for weaving together more wonderful stories for children of all ages.
Find more from Alison McGregor now:
Current books in the Growing Up Antoinette series:
-Antoinette and the Story of the Jellyfish Monster
-Antoinette and the Story of the Invisible Giraffes
@thealisonmcgregor on Instagram
Books are available on Amazon US and CA, Barnes & Noble, Indigo, Apple Books, iTunes, Google Play and through my website.
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