When I was twelve I needed money. Money for what? Movie tickets, Beatles’ records, cute shoes. But there was only one way a twelve-year-old girl in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, could earn that kind of money. Babysitting.
Unfortunately, there were lots of cash-hungry twelve-year-old girls in my neighborhood and hardly any little kids. To beat out the competition, each girl had an angle.
One let the kids stay up late, another let them eat junk, a third let them watch whatever they wanted on TV.
Me? I told really scary stories. I knew how because I had practiced on my sister, telling her ghost stories in our pitch-dark room.
Her favorite was one I learned from my mom. It was called “The Man With the Golden Arm.”
After I had told it a gazillion times I began to change the body part. “The Man With the Golden Nose.” “The Man With the Golden Butt.” You get the idea.
But as a babysitter I needed more stories. Lots more stories. I started making them up.
Along one side of our neighborhood ran a skinny stream called Canoe Brook. At its widest, it was no more than three feet, but in my stories Canoe Brook became a dismal swamp inhabited by a ghost named Wilhelmina Willendorf.
Poor Wilhelmina wasn’t a bad ghost. She just missed her kids who had drowned in the swamp. As a ghost, she was still looking for them, and when she couldn’t find them she came after the kids in the neighborhood (the kids I was babysitting), dragging them into the swamp to keep her company.
Sometimes I scared the kids so badly I was sure I would never work again—but then the phone would ring. “Can you baby sit tonight? Daniel wants you because you’re so scary!”
And that’s how I became a storyteller—and bought lots of cute shoes. Read more…