...as it is affectionately called. I lived with my grandparents for the first five years of my life. Many of my stories are inspired by growing up and living in the city. My memories are embedded in my grandparents’ home, which was in an apartment building called Overlook Terrace on the upper west side. I always wanted to return to that safe, fun place I called home. My mother, who the family called Sis, came one day to take me and move to an apartment very close to the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens. I would walk a couple of blocks to the zoo and at the front gate I would see young boys with homemade wooden shoe boxes filled with polish and cloths ready to shine the shoes of their customers.
One day I was told I was going to visit my grandparents and when asked by my grandmother how I was doing I immediately told her I was fine and shining shoes at the Bronx Zoo. I was sent to the living room and later on I heard a big hullabaloo coming from the kitchen. It was my mother and grandmother arguing then my mother left. Things calmed down and I was called back to the kitchen by my grandmother. She was sitting on her chair looking down at me and asked this question: “Ethel, are you shining shoes at the Bronx Zoo?” I’ll never forget that moment and the terrible feeling I had as I told her “no, Grandma, I am not shining shoes”. I was just a little girl, but it hit me. I understood the difference between a lie and a story."...my teacher told her I had the gift of storytelling. I looked up at him wondering how he knew I had a gift and if it were true."
Oh those stories;
the next time I can remember storytelling was with my sixth grade school teacher. He asked me to tell a story to my classmates and without hesitating or fear I stood up in front of the classroom and took them to a world filled with creatures that lived under the sea. I remember the silence of my classmates and the ability to go into my imagination and share in story form what I saw. I was asked many times during the year to tell stories. My mother came in for a parent/teacher conference and my teacher told her I had the gift of storytelling. I looked up at him wondering how he knew I had a gift and if it were true.
"I will always tell stories, for that is where my heart is."Fast forward years ahead when I met my husband; this became a story I have told called, "The Man, the Ring, and the Gown". We moved to a place called Edgewater Park; a small community right on the Eastchester Bay right near the Throggsneck Bridge. If you walked along the concrete bulkhead you would see small colorful bungalows sitting on small patches of land facing the bay. The surroundings filled our spirit with delight after growing up in the tenements of New York City. We had three boys close in age that became a series in the stories of the mischief they created. Just to mention a few, they were playing cowboys and Indians and managed to tie up the babysitter while we were at a wedding. They took broom sticks and shoes and put foot prints all over the ceiling tiles in their bedroom. I told the stories about the boys to family and friends and everyone would ask me to tell them again and again because they thought the stories were so funny. The Edgewater boys could get into more trouble than Dennis the Menace. Looking back it was some of the best times of our lives.
Our family grew to six with three more children, two girls and a boy so we decided to move to Connecticut. We were sad and grieving for Edgewater but the stories helped the process as we sat in the living room telling and listening. Encouraged by my family to write some of my stories down, I started to write a story that became a play and finished A Golden Bell a Pomegranate and a Golden Bell. Then I wrote a Native American story Towntom. I was recognized by the Westport Library as one of the local artists. It was the beginning of telling stories outside of the family and into the community and the world. I have recently written a Fairy tale Chickadee and I have started to write a collection of short stories. I will always tell stories, for that is where my heart is.
- Storyteller, Author, Poet, Playwright -
Telling the story of Chickadee
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