A mountain of stories

“We know of course that there’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.”

-Arundhati Roy, Sydney Peace Prize 2004[1]

everything out of home copy

I am currently sifting through a mountain of children’s paintings, drawings, collages and writing, transcripts of dictated stories, play-scripts, conversations, anecdotes and photographs of children’s play. I accumulated this collection when I was teaching at Yarralea Children’s Centre in Alphington, Victoria, on and off, between 1984 and 2006.

For the past nine years I have also been encircled in the life stories of my grandchildren, Rory, Otto and Fraser – ‘the brothers’.

Packing for the Journey – a spaciousness for sharing children’s voices over a timespan of thirty years.

 

Mother’s Day Palimpsests

 

Palimpsests 1 and 2

Friday, not Sunday, was the day we celebrated Mothers’ Day this year with Alex, Damon and the brothers, Rory, Otto and Fraser. Andrew, Cat and I were coming over early to cook the tea because Alex and the boys had footy training and wouldn’t be home ’til about 7 o’clock, and, at the end of his first week in a new job, Damon had to stay late at work. We thought that the hamburgers would be ready to serve up as soon as they walked in. As it turned out we all arrived at their house at the same time – about 7 o’clock As usual, we had left home too late, stopped to buy a bottle of wine, got caught up in Friday night can’t-wait-to-get-home-and-watch-the-footy traffic.

As we let ourselves in the side door, three boys aged nine, seven and two (one of them in a particularly bad mood) burst through the front door, closely followed by Alex who was taking in a few deep breaths. Damon had already arrived home.

We opened the bottle of wine, Andrew got on with making and cooking the hamburgers. and the rest of us found a place to be – in front of the tele, on a device, on the floor, on a bike, at the table, in a bedroom yelling MAAAAAM!!, on the couch calling out, ‘If you want to talk to me come out here.’

I asked Otto if he had found his SRC badge which he had lost somewhere in the house last Sunday. He and Rory have both been chosen (by their friends) to be on the school Student Representative Council – known as The SRC. No SRC at primary school in my day. The badge did turn up and they had been to their first meeting. 

“How was it, Otto? I asked.
– ‘Oh it was really good,’ he said.
‘What happened?’
– ‘We talked about respect. We all had a piece of paper and we had to write and draw about RESPECT!.’
Tell Janna about your idea,’ said Alex.
– ‘Oh yes. I had this idea for a Fun Group. It’s for people who don’t have a friend. They can come and have fun with me – play sport and, …have fun games.’
‘You could make a poster to put up around the school to let everyone know about  group – make copies and put them around the school to tell everyone about your idea.
– ‘I’ll have to talk to the principal first. I’ll talk to the principal, and if he says ‘yes’ then I’ll put them up and hand them out.’

Otto found a sheet of A4 copy paper and started on his his poster at the dining table. The ink went through to the table. Alex told him to put something under the paper. He got a few more sheets and slipped them under the poster, and went on writing with large outline letters for maximum impact. 

‘Where did you get the idea to start a Fun Group?’
‘Oh, well Lachie, he’s a boy in my class, he came up with the idea for a Nature Group, and then I thought I could make a Fun Group.’

I didn’t get a copy of Otto’s poster, but, if or when I do I’ll post it.

Here are the notes I took at the time. I need to do that these days. They are written on the back of a drawing Otto did of his favourite St Kilda footy player Nick Reiwoldt (see below).

Otto's Fun Group poster

  • palimpsest
    ˈpalɪm(p)sɛst/
    noun
    – a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.
    – something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

Otto's RoowyOtto also created his own distinctive signature. 

Pirates – Part 1

Nudging Ned

a-sams-drawing

For many weeks Ned and Richard were playing pirates together. The day Richard said, quite politely, ‘Walk the plank, Ned’, things changed. Ned stamped his foot, got red in the face, and stormed off to the cubby house, shouting. ‘I’m the captain, Richard!’.

Ned refused to be in Richard’s story – the one where Richard was the captain. I had been watching this drama unfolding, aware that Ned always assumed the role of captain, and that Richard was getting a bit sick of being the pirate who always ended up in the shark-infested water.

I couldn’t help them work it out that day. I tried to help them find other ways to tell their stories.
‘You could paint or draw a picture about your pirate story.’
‘I can’t paint a pirate.’
‘You could each tell me the story that you’re thinking about, and I could write it down, and we could act it out at mat time.’

Richard was the first one to tell me a story.

‘There’s only Ned and Richard. There’s only two people. It’s about Ned and Richard. Ned and Richard fight with the swords and I’m the goodie and Ned is the baddie. There was a sea and I pushed him into the sea and I made him walk the plank.’

At mat time, Richard asked Ned to be the pirate who walked the plank. Ned shook his head, ‘No’, so Richard chose someone else. Ned wasn’t ready to take on that role – not in dramatic storyplay, and not as a character in Richard’s story. He as watched another child acted his part – a baddie being pushed into the sea. Continue reading

Pumpkin, peas and carrots for lunch

Rory pumpkinOne day Rory found this photo. He showed it to his Dad, Damon and said,  ‘Dad’, tell me the story about this picture when I was a baby.’

‘Well…’, said Damon, ‘…this day I gave you mashed pumpkin, peas and carrots for lunch.You ended up with food in your hair, between your toes, on your eyebrows, up your nose. We had to have a bath! Looks to me like your enjoying yourself’. ‘I am!’ said Rory.

‘Aaaah-aah – ah!’ means ‘Go Rory!’

From their earliest days children are drawn into the chatter and goings-on of everyday family life.

They listen. They watch. They make sounds. They cry. They laugh. They babble and blurt. They squint and scrunch. They wave and nod.

Before long they are using their own sounds and words  to let us know what they know, how they feel, and what they want. They are on their way. 

 Everyday stories

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Fraser’s on the inside watching Big Brother 

 

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Rory stops kicking the ball to have a chat with Fraser