Her eyes were a beautiful blue

Posted: December 30, 2010 by writingsprint in Memories
Tags: , ,

Mrs. Shelley looked at all of us and waited for the room to quiet down. It was a sunny day in April and early in the morning, and already starting to get warm. “Everyone, this is Mrs. Murphy,” she said, nodding to the slim woman standing next to her. “She’s going to be my teacher’s assistant on Fridays for the rest of the year. If you’re good, she’ll tell you stories at the end of the day.”

We started to laugh. Tell us stories? We were in fourth grade. Weren’t we a little old for that? Mrs. Murphy smiled kindly and Mrs. Shelley said, “You’re laughing now, but believe me. After you hear her tell you one, you’ll know why every class I’ve ever taught, with Mrs. Murphy as the assistant, wanted to be on their best behavior that day.”

The class got quiet. You didn’t mess with Mrs. Shelley, for one thing, but she sounded serious, too. I wondered what was so great about Mrs. Murphy’s stories.

Our class day was the usual day. Religion, math, English, social studies, science; we were studying the sacraments, long division, paragraph writing, India, and the weather. At the end of day, during seatwork, I saw Mrs. Shelley walk over to Mrs. Murphy, where she sat helping grade our last math test. Mrs. Murphy nodded a few times. She started to put away the papers as Mrs. Shelley came to the middle of the room again and said, “Okay, children. Put your pencils down and put your books away. Everyone push your chairs back and form a circle. It’s story time.” The ruckus of voices and laughing started to come up as chairs were moved. “Quiet… quietly…” she warned. That was her “Defcon 5” voice. You didn’t want to hear Defcon 1.

Mrs. Murphy walked into the center of the room. There was something about the stillness of her that made us become quiet, too. Her eyes were closed and her hands were folded, like she was thinking or praying, and I noticed I was holding my breath.

“Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jeremy who lived in a faraway land. Jeremy was the son of the local shoemaker, a man named Reginald. He was poor; they were poor; but Reginald made good shoes that fit everyone they were put on, and he would fix shoes and do other handy things for his neighbors with a smile, and ‘no trouble, ma’am. I hope you like them.'”

It sounded like the same old fairy tale, but I liked Mrs. Murphy. She was like your neighbor who sometimes helps your mom out with carrying in the groceries, and smiles when she sees you playing on your front steps. Jeremy Miller, who sat across from me, was hanging on every word she said. I saw her look at him just before she said the name of our story’s hero. Yeah, I thought. Mrs. Murphy was cool.

“One day, the daughter of the local duke came into the village. ‘Who is the shoemaker?’ she asked.” Mrs. Murphy put her hands on her hips, swayed back her shoulders, and did a great arrogant, bossy walk. “Jeremy was outside his father’s shop, tanning leather for use in his father’s shoes, and he said, ‘My father is the shoemaker.’ The duchess walked over to Jeremy, and her eyes were a beautiful blue.” Mrs. Murphy looked at me. “Blue like the color of your shirt.”

I was hooked. Mrs. Murphy spent the next half hour telling us the story of how Jeremy’s father made a pair of magic shoes for the duchess, and how Jeremy had to get help from a giant named Growth, a dwarf named Paddy, and  a fairy named Maria to save the duchess from her cruel father’s curse. It felt like a day, in a good way. She was looked at the tallest boy in class, Bill, when she talked about Growth. When she talked in Paddy’s voice, I swear she was using Mike Putnam’s scrappy attitude. And quiet, softly spoken Maria had to be Mary with the freckles who sat in the back of the room.

And that, more or less, is the story of when I started to love storytelling.

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