Mom was a great storyteller and probably would have made a very good children’s book writer, too. For example, (our) favorite sweater was a deep rose/salmon pink cardigan. One day (when I was about three) she lost a button off of this and she told me the story of Pop the Button (over and over, at my request).
It seems Pop was quite adventurous as a young button. One night he jumped off the sweater, but soon he was lonely and missed his friends. Our cat Dopey (named for our favorite Snow White dwarf) found Pop and batted him around the living room till poor Pop was exhausted.
The next morning Mom found Pop and sewed him back on the sweater with all his friends. He was so happy to be back home again!
She also used storytelling to help me overcome my early childhood fear of thunder and lightning. She told me that the Great God Zeus had lost his son, a little thunderbolt (which I understood as “thunderboat”), and was looking for him. He shined his flashlight down onto earth and was calling out “Julius!” in each thunderclap. If I looked up into the clouds, I might see Zeus’ flashlight; and if I listened carefully, I would hear him calling Julius the “thunderboat” (I pictured a toy sailboat).
Her family had a passion for reading that both she and my half-brother (Fred Sealy) passed on to me. From a very early age I was enthralled by Alice Through the Looking Glass (for which I learned to play chess); Kipling’s Just So stories; the Babar books; the Winnie the Pooh series; the Oz books; and much more. They both read well and enjoyed hearing their favorite stories over and over, as I did. Later on, Mom shared Little Women with me, as well as books the Wilmette (and Ephraim) librarians recommended, included Newbery Medal winners.
In the summers in our little cabin in Wisconsin, we would read aloud to each other by kerosene lantern light, or separately enjoy our books in companionable silence. Mom and Dad would read to each other bits that caught their fancy from The New Yorker, too, and I would listen from the next room to this grown-up humor and try to understand it.