Illustration by Amber Albrecht
I think the best folk tales we have in our generation are the lies our parents told us when we were children.
Every night before bed when I was younger, my father would come into our rooms and tuck us in, lie down and make up a story to tell us. I'm speculating, but, I'm pretty sure they were generally fabricated on the spot.
The ones he told me were usually incongruous and catered to my interests, which, as a pre-adolescent growing up in the nineties, dealt largely with cartoons and comic books, video games and violent television shows. I really can't say I remember any one of those stories in particular, but I do remember a brief series on The Ninja Turtles, as my mother forbade me from watching the cartoon for some reason.
The stories he told my younger sister, Maggie, were much more interesting to hear back then, But I find them even more interesting to think about now.
Usually, these stories centered around a young girl named Melissa-Ann and her various adventures, which were strangely similar to events in Maggie's daily life.
Melissa-Ann scores a goal in the soccer game, Melissa-Ann sings in the holiday concert, Melissa-Ann and the bullies on the playground, and so on...
Maggie ate those stories up, and every night begged to be told a new one before bed until she was much too old to be told bedtime stories. Even I sat in on a few and remember them fairly well.
Eventually, the life of Melissa-Ann turned into utterly fantastic legend, involving space travel, dinosaurs, pirates--even the tooth fairy and Santa Claus made cameos. There might have even been one where Melissa-Ann celebrated Passover and Elijah appeared at the dinner table, but I might be making it up.
Years later, after my father's funeral, my mother, sisters, and I were forced to stand in a line at a reception in an events room below the church sanctuary. After the painstaking hour of pre-rehearsed "sorry for your loss"es, and "if there's anything I can do..."s from people I barely knew, a twelve year-old Maggie turned to me and asked,
"Where was Melissa-Ann?"