This past weekend, our family rented an art-filled, conveniently-located-for-most-of-us farmhouse in Old Saybrook, Connecticut; nine adults and three children under the same roof. Overjoyed to spend a couple of days with my daughters, three out of four sons-in-law, and precious grandchildren, it wasn’t until I got home yesterday that I realized why this mini-vacation had been so thoroughly satisfying and relaxing: no Wifi. (A son-in-law checked; the rental owners hadn’t paid their ComCast bill.)
Sunday night, after roasting marshmallows in the fireplace fire, instead of watching the Olympics or “Downton Abbey,” my four-year-old grand-daughter and I pulled a couple of pillows off the couch so we could cozily watch the flames—and tell stories. She’d overheard me tell the Jonah and the whale story* to her older brother that afternoon and wanted to hear it again. When I’d finished retelling that ancient tale, then she told me a story about tiny, tiny people living in a rock—I’d explained to her brother that Nineveh was a real place and located in Iraq—at the bottom of the ocean. When a giant squid came to eat the rock, she said, the little people didn’t hear the squid at first because they had water in their ears!
Both times I told the story, I used the word “God.” Because it’s impossible to tell the story without mentioning that all-powerful, key figure in the drama, right? God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh. God sends the storm. And the whale. Jonah prays to God from inside the whale. Etc.
And both grandchildren simply took in that highly charged, highly loaded, capitalized noun. For my logical, scientific grandson, who has often informed me that there is no God, my saying, “This is how this story is told in the Bible,” was apparently sufficient. He’s reading Harry Potter these days. He gets the internal integrity of a good yarn, the understanding between an author and a reader that between the covers of this book, this is what the world looks like and how things work. And for my tiara-wearing because she’s often a princess grand-daughter, magic happens.
Yes, it does.
* My (incredibly talented) musician co-teacher and I are writing songs based on Bible stories with our high school First Day School students. First song: Jonah and the Whale. So I, not conversant with the Bible, actually know that story.