15 year veteran of storytime at the Medfield Library, Kurt Jackson, spins exciting tales, and engages kids to ask questions and believe in impossible things. Photo by Christina Perrone
Hometown Weekly Intern
It was Tuesday, June 25 at 7 p.m. Kids filtered through a large room at the back of the Medfield Library, some wearing pajamas, all eager to listen to Kurt Jackson’s stories before going to bed.
Jackson is a resident storyteller at Medfield Library and has been its designated storyteller for nearly 15 years. He is adored so much at the library that there was even a film camera recording his storytelling sessions to be broadcasted to YouTube for those who missed this week’s tales.
Jackson’s method of storytelling is vivid and clear. It’s as if he were recounting these tales to friends at a party or social gathering, an informal and humorous style that garners attention and laughs. His stories are entertaining and full of details, adding a certain authenticity to them - even ones about make-believe things like mermaids.
His first story of the night was a memory of his from his childhood, during “The Summer to Remember,” as he put it in his own words. It was his friend Kim’s birthday and his mother had bought him a baby blue bathing suit, baby blue flippers, and a baby blue scuba mask with a snorkel so that he could swim at the beach.
“Now, here was the deal for her birthday party,” Jackson said, beginning the narrative arc and establishing the conflict. “Her mom said she could invite as many kids that could fit into her big, giant Cadillac with a broken air conditioner.” His story took the children on a ride to Crescent Ridge, a farm in Sharon known for its heaping cones of homemade ice cream. During the journey, he made the kids roar with laughter as he imitated Kim’s mother, Heidi, as she drove the massive Cadillac with a broken air conditioner, and acted out the kids in the hot car licking ice cream furiously as it quickly melted.
“I’d never been to the beach. I’d never been in the ocean before,” said Jackson, when the kids arrived at the beach and piled out of the car. That summer, Jackson had just learned to swim and was nervous about it, but determined to take a shot at swimming in the ocean.
“So I finally get up to my neck,” he said, while he simulated breathing in a snorkel and swimming around the water, “And all of the sudden I see bubbles. Bubbles, bubbles in the ocean! Well, immediately my mind thinks of the most vicious thing that can ever come from the sea,” Jackson paused and took guesses from the audience.
“ I think of a sea turtle!” he answered with bravado. “I’m going to be eaten by a sea turtle! So all the sudden, I panic, there’s bubbles, there’s a sea turtle, and I think: ‘I got to get out of here!’ So I turn around as quick as I can, and guess what happened?” asked an exasperated Jackson.
“My mask stayed right there,” Jackson said, making a silly face as if his goggles were faced backwards. “My mask stayed at of the back of my head. I cannot see anything. So I panic! I splash around and my snorkel falls out of my mouth, so I can’t breathe, I start bobbing up and down!” he started to bend up and down.
“And then I sit at the bottom of the ocean, and I say, ‘Well that’s it. I’m never going to go to Rocky Point.’ And then I saw something that kind of looked like a nose, then two eyes and then a mouth. And then the closer it got, the more beautiful it got. And then, right in front of me was the most beautiful women I had ever seen,” said Jackson as if in a dream.
“Then all of the sudden, she put her mouth on my mouth! I looked like this!” he said, breaking the trance with a puckered face. An appropriate chorus of “ewws!” ensued from the audience.
“But when she moved back,” he said, breathing in and out, “I could breathe underwater! Then she took me by my hand and started moving into the ocean. And I looked and I could see as clear as day! We saw fish. We saw lobsters, and crabs. And we saw a whale, and sharks, and a sea turtle. I saw every sea creature you could imagine and it seemed like time went on forever.” Just by looking around, you could see little movies playing in the kids’ heads as they listened to Jackson’s tale.
As previously mentioned, Jackson likes to add authenticity to his stories. In his story, the mermaid left him with something and vanished. When he opened out his hand, he saw a heart-shaped rock. He then interrupted the story to take out a heart shaped rock from his pocket and showed it around to his audience.
And every time I go to the beach,” he said, closing his story, “I look for heart-shaped beach rocks, because if you find one, there might be a mermaid nearby.”
Bernadette Foley, a staff member of the library, also attended the storytime, as she organized the event herself.
“I organize all the programs that go on in the children's room,” said Foley, putting away the chairs as the audience members went off to bed. “We’ve been having Kurt for years and years - since before my time - and we’re happy to have him every season. We have a resident storyteller that all the kids know and love, and he knows them.”
“Some stories I get from my childhood,” said Jackson, “so events that I have combine and turn into a story. And some come from reading short stories here and there, and you kind of get a consensus from the stories and make them your own. The kids seem to love the ones I make up more than other stories, because you can make it more relative to what’s going on in their life.
“One of my favorite stories is about a mean bus driver, and he consumes the kids on the bus. But all the children have food names, like Candy Cane, Tootsie Roll, Arty Choke, and Marsha Mellow. But they all come back in the end,” recalled Jackson. “So it’s kind of gross, but also mysterious and funny at the same time. But that was one that I came up with during a field trip years ago. I work at the after school program at Medfield Elementary School. And it was an experience from being on the bus and it was a long trip home, and we just huddled up in the middle and told the kids a story.”
That’s the purpose of storytime. It is a time where kids can gather away from the absorption of the world of technology, listen to stories and cultivate imagination.
Storytime provides an outlet for creative thought and fuels a fire for young minds to think outside the box.