A First Story

The cabin in the northern Idaho woods was warm, but the fireplace needed wood soon. Ellie still lay on the second-hand sofa, trying to relax.

Her belly tightened. She inhaled sharply and held her breath, closing her eyes.  Relax. She forced herself to inhale and exhale into the pain–slow and deep. A minute later, the squeezing subsided. She rubbed her abdomen, eased into normal breaths. She opened her eyes to huge snowflakes framed in the large living room window.

She was beginning to regret insisting Matthew go to Chicago for business that morning. As the first snowflakes of winter fell behind him, she’d shooed him out the door. “Freak snow storm. It’ll be melted by noon,” she told him with a wave of her hand.

But it hadn’t stopped snowing, and it was near dusk.

She pushed herself off the couch, her belly sticking out like an over-inflated basketball. And she wasn’t due for another three weeks. She waddled to the window and leaned her forehead on the cold glass. It was too early for snow.

And, please, it was too early for labor, too.

It’s all new to us …

Handling an emergency sets our actions into automatic motion.

We go into labor or run out of gas on a deserted road. Our elderly parents won’t answer the phone all day–in another state. While hiking, we come upon a bear.

What can we do, especially if the situation is a new one for us?

Or is it? 

Our brains’ database searches for stories we know. Whether in a book or a movie or a family story, we’ve learned from others’ experiences and this is why–to help us in similar situations.

Stories empower us.

Let’s do this …

We become participants in story as we read or watch or listen. We experience what the characters experience–biologically. Our brain lights up in the same areas as if we had been the character ourselves.

Birth stories teach us about miracles and strength.

Coming-of-age stories show us how difficult it can be to grow up while we discover with the protagonist that we, too, are unique and strong.

Love stories give us hope that there is someone for us, someone who understands us and accepts us for who we are.

Adventures allow a safer way to feel the thrill of events for those of us who might not put skydiving or war or swimming with dolphins on our bucket list but might like to try certain thrills.

Mysteries, crime, science fiction, historical and more have their own flavors, and since we all are different, provide us with stories that appeal to our own tastes.

Even contemporary fiction has a wide range to give us a glimpse into different cultures than we are in. Socioeconomic, gender, race, and religion differences–to name a few–blur in the pages of story.

Family stories told around the dinner table or at family gatherings tell us not only where we came from, but inspire us with what our ancestors have overcome.

Ellie’s story

Even though Ellie was alone, she was also the youngest sister of four. She’d listened to her sisters’ and many friends’ birth stories. She’d read, not just childbirth books, but also birth stories, and she knew what to expect.

But more importantly, her brain knew she could do it. In all those stories of other women she’d read about who had given birth, her brain experienced the events as if she were there.

Because of the stories she knew, Ellie knew she could do it. And she did.

Hours later in the early dawn, she rocked her newborn baby. She stroked her soft cheek. And she told her her first story.

What’s the first story you can remember? Do you have a favorite type or genre of story?

One response to “A First Story”

  1. Ms. Picone, I came across your website from the link attached to your comment on Nick Harrison’s blog. I enjoyed very much your posts on writing fiction. Really edifying. Thank you. You might enjoy a website I love to peruse – The Paris Review Interviews. Here http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews Thank you again for sharing your thoughts online.