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from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven

Grandparents, and older adults generally, are excellent sources for stories and activities that fascinate children. Plotting, writing and then rehashing such stories can be as much fun for grandma and grandpa, as for the grandkids who hear or read them. In years to come, the young grandchildren of today will read to their own grandchildren the stories that their grandparents wrote for them. The process enhances a family's sense of continuity and cohesion, especially in circumstances where the family is dispersed.

Reviewing how a story came to be may refresh memories of childhood to the generation in the middle as well to the elders and, in time, to the young as they mature. Here is a model with which to experiment. Except for some moderate editing for continuity, the dialogue immediately following is pretty much as it happened.

(Grandma said) 'Mike, answer the phone. I'm busy.'

(Grandpa grumbled) 'It's probably for you.'

'Well, then, take the message.'

(Mumble, mumble) 'Hello.'

'Hi, Grandpa!'

'Yo, ho, ho! Looka what I got, and it isn't even my birthday! My too-faraway grandchild! How goes...?'

'I want another story, Grandpa.'

'Huh? What's this 'another' story bit all of a sudden?'

'A space story, Grandpa, write me a space story.'

'Space? What do I know about space? Where in space?'

'Far out.'

'How far? Space is humungous.'

'Tell me about it. I watch TV cartoons too.'

'Well then, as one expert to another, this calls for a telephone story conference.'

The next ten minutes consisted of an in-depth give-and-take during which grandchild enlightened me about our Sun and its family of planets. Together, we counted off and named the planets from Mercury on out, guessed at the number of moons orbiting each, and which of the outer planets had rings 'that look like flattened hula hoops.' It wasn't long before I was frantically leafing through the encyclopedia I hauled out to the dining room table as we talked. After all, to this (then) six-year old, I was 'grandpa', and grandpa, to a six-year old, knows, doesn't he? Finally, I succumbed to Grandchild's demands.

'OK. I'll write a story, but first I got questions. Holler Mom to the extension phone. Tell her to bring notepaper and a pencil.'

'Hi, Dad, what's happenin'.'

'Don't ask me, ask my grandchild; she gave me the job. But I wasn't born yesterday, ol' gramps is switching this around to a family project, so are you ready, I hope. OK? Write this down and call me back with the answers. I need a boy character and a girl character. Give them names. Next, where do they live? Just 'in space' ain't enough. Where in space? On the moon? On Mars along with that double-jointed six-wheeler we sent up a few years ago there to sniff around in potholes and climb over rocks? Where?

'Maybe the characters live on one of the Asteroids? How about one of Jupiter's dozen or so moons? How about putting them on a pebble or a grain of sand that whirls along somewhere in an outer ring of Saturn? Or you folks have a family story conference and make up your own answers. OK?'

An anguished moan 'Oh, no!' from the other end of the line. Grandchild phoned back later.

'The girl's name is Stobey and she is a space worm, and the boy is Slutter and he's a slime.'

'Oh, my! Stobey the Space Worm and Slutter the Slime. That's a fine pair of characters you're giving me to work with. What else did you come up with?'

'Mom says for you to use your own imagination and not to bother her.'

'Hmmm, I'm being abandoned in deep space. OK, how about Stobey and Slutter in a story about a space bagel?'

'C'mon, you're kiddin'; but it's your problem, Gramps! Carry on!'

And that led to the story about': A Bagel? In Space?

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