“Once upon a time, long, long ago…” Don’t you remember those magical words? We greeted them with wide eyes and bated breath, welcoming the invitation into mystery and enchantment, a foray into kingdoms of wonder or adventure to encounter … what? Ah, that was the magic!
Let’s walk together
Once more down those well known paths
And meet Magic there!
Oh, those wonderful tales! For me there were the Japanese folk stories that my aunts told me, the Hans Christian Anderson book from which my father read to me, the Arthurian Legends told and re-told by my Uncle Harry. Hungrily, I absorbed them all, hugging myself with anticipation. It didn’t matter that I had heard the same story a hundred times… each telling offered possibilities. What if the black knight knocked Sir Lancelot off his horse this time? Supposing the prince (fool that he was!) realized that he really loved the Little Mermaid? Perhaps now Urashima Taro would stay in the undersea kingdom?
What if, supposing, perhaps—these words are the stock in trade of writers, but not just of writers. Artists use those prompts every day, as do scientists and engineers and astrophysicists whose thinking beyond the box have changed the way we see the world. Perhaps as children all of us have held our breath when swans flew overhead or walked the sea shore (as I have!) hoping that this time I might see the little mermaid rising from the waves. We can read a library full of books, but the stories that stay with us are most likely the ones that we met when we were very young.
This is why I began to compile the Polly, Molly, and Jolly stories. To explain—I had told these stories for over 8 years to our grandchildren, told them over dinner or during car rides, the latest calculation being that over 468 stories were related to rapt audiences. In the stories (a new one each week!) the inept and villainous trio, Polly, Molly and Jolly, were always up to No Good but were always vanquished by Ben, Kate, and Alex—the heroic grandchildren.
The stories were never very long, and I admit that sometimes they made little sense. Often, they were composed on demand: Grammy, tell a story about that glass squirrel and make it be magic! Weekly the grandchildren traveled by magic carpet or space ship to places like the Planet Xiron, where people walked backward in order to go forward, or to jungles where they met up with their pal, Sam, the pink dinosaur. They matched wits with such characters as Cousin Phoebe who chomped up old sneakers, and Uncle Mortimer, a ferocious villain whose favorite tipple was cockroach juice. The grandchildren had allies, too—the garrulous dictionary who had answers to everything; the hip computer who called everybody ‘Dude’; the humble rubber band who could turn itself into anything at all. In fact, it was the rubber band that saved the world from Hortensia, the Ultimate Evil…
As the years passed, the children changed plots and outcomes, added people, and suggested scenarios which became more and more complex. But eventually the glamour of the stories began to fade, and PM&J roamed no more. Did the stories leave an imprint? I don’t know, but I note with glee that all three grandchildren write well— with verve and humor and imagination.
So I decided to put on paper what I remembered of the stories. After all, Polly, Molly and Jolly were a part of the grandchildren’s childhood. So far, the reviews have been kind. It has even been reported that my readership of three laughed out loud while reading the stories that usually began: “Once, not long ago, Ben, Kate and Alex were reading peacefully on the back porch when suddenly…”