We have just begun To Kill a Mockingbird and for 30 minutes in my morning class today we shared stories about all the Boo Radleys in our lives, neighbors and their weirdnesses (real or perceived) with whom we were/are endlessly obsessed. In the discussion, it was almost as if we reached a peak of archetypical energy, the stuff where myths and the writing on cave walls comes from. Everyone had a story (actually stories). Their memories were palpable filled with description and detail. Their sharings revealed how they still are haunted by those experiences.
Then we started riffing. It started out slowly at first. As one person spoke other parts of other stories got sliced into their stories. EG’s story about the greek woman in black who swept her walk appeared in SF’s story of the next-door dentist who worked in his basement. His drill appeared in NV’s story about the neighbor who he thought was stalking him. KG’s story of mysterious crosses somehow got mixed up with the greek woman in black again, but this time she was carrying the dentist’s drill. This went on for the rest of class. Lots of laughter.
It was clear that there is something very primal about the fear and mystery of neighbors, the danger of other. It was not hard for anyone to imagine the fascination that Jem, Scout, and Dill had for Boo. It was also not hard for anyone to imagine how playful stories can be and by allowing ourselves to be creative and imaginative, allowing our own stories to twist and turn and suck up other stories around them, they can become something totally new and fresh and totally unexpected.
I’m not sure exactly what happened this morning, but I do know that when the students left class today they were very nearly out of breath. Now how often does a story do that?!