“Once Upon a Time…”


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…”


"The Tree Of Life"

"The Tree Of Life"



About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

14 responses »

  1. I like the way the tree of life bursts through those narrow boundaries. Where are Polly, Molly and Jolly.. are they on the blog already somewhere? I recall with much pleasure the “childhood stories” that dad told us when we where kids.. he had to heroically keep hold of his diaper as he accomplished amazing things. Sue

    • No PM or J on the tree of life… but I liked the quirky way this one is set up (like the cat and the dog!). Of course, I started to put together a MUCH different version, but this is what turned up!! All those old stories. Isn’t it fun to remember, Sue?

    • I don’t know about a legacy… but the PM&J stories pre-empted TV for many years. Now, that’s a compliment! Some of them were quite intricate as all the children had their own magic equipment… hats that flew, magic boomerangs, etc. We did have a lot of fun together!!

  2. what a piece of serendipity you have woven across the spaces of time~!
    i would love to have been a butterfly on your shoulder as you wove those bits of fantasy together. i shall send the blog on to my daughters for their memories…
    we did something of a sort when our children were little. i would start a story and then pass it on to the next little one to add their bit of fantasy and so on down the line off little people.
    i did smile at the memories of how they loved those times of their lives. from donna
    ~~~~ i hope you will write a book of what you can conjure up of those stories you told your grand children. i think it would be an instant best seller ; and give many children a place to go that would be a very special time for each one of them.

    • Thank you, Donna! You know, Ben did say I should write a book with the PM&J characters. I said, ‘who would be interested?’ and he said, “you’d be surprised, grammy!” I wonder. I do wonder…

    • Thank you, Linda– PM&J will be pleased! Actually, I got quite fond of the miscreants, and we had fun inventing all kinds of crazy characters. There was the incident of the tree of dreams… on one side, the berries brought good dreams, the other brought nightmares! Ben actually suggested that I make a book out of the stories… do you really think I should?

  3. Why not toss the idea out to your publisher? You could consider a newspaper serial if you know any that might be interested. You could also consider putting one story on your website. Think on this and see where it leads. Definitely, start writing them down for family at least. You’re so creative!

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