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Interview with Patricia "Pat" Smith

Smith, Patricia
Scardina, Trish
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Childhood Adventures; Stories and Storytellers; Tolerance and Respect
Patricia Smith recalls a story about her encounter with Santa one night, and she talks about her relationship with her children.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Trish Scardina interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
PS (Patricia "Pat" Smith ): Patricia Smith, age 59 and I'm from Connecticut.
TS (Trisha Scardina): What kind of stories were told to you as a child?
PS: We have a family picture of me and my brother and sister sitting on the couch with my mother reading us a story. I do not remember what the story was about. Um, the stories I remember the most was listening to the radio. Um, I don't remember stories from my mother reading them [pause]. It was a stand up big radio, we didn't have a TV at this time, and I sat leaning on the radio listening to my favorite, The Shadow, Only the Shadow Knows a mystery story every week. I do not remember being read to with books. I remember one night, though, having to walk up the street to the farmhouse to get milk. It was Christmastime and it was cold, and being bundled up, I walked at nighttime slowly up the street. There was a full moon. I slowly looked up at the moon and saw a gold sleigh and Santa approaching the left side of the moon. I was surprised and did not believe what I was seeing, so, I paused and I gazed in awe that I actually saw Santa and the sleigh. I couldn't get it out of my mind as I continued my walk. When I got home, I told everyone and don't remember any responses. I was told by a friend there was no Santa, that really bothered me so I asked my dad one night during the Christmas season. He had a way of speaking, with a strong voice that we never questioned when he used it. And when he, when I told him what my friend said he sat me down saying, "That is not true, there is a Santa," in that voice we never questioned. "Your friend is wrong and let me tell you why." And he just proceeded with his loving logic and questions to prove to me there really was a Santa. Everything he said made sense to me and I could feel myself well up inside with pride and love for my father and I felt so good and happy that my friend was now wrong and I was right and there really was a Santa, and that Santa was in my heart and mind now.
TS: Which one was your favorite story?
PS: That was my favorite story, it was the most impactful story. And to this day, I can still remember feeling so proud that my dad convinced me and all those feelings of believing that that was true and I can still feel that today.
TS: Did you read books or tell stories to your children?
PS: Yes, I did both. I read books and told stories.
TS: What kind of books did you read to your children? Where did you read them? Why did you read them?
PS: Well, uh. Children's books, um, like Dr. Seuss, and I did a lot of books on feelings, about being sad, happy, neat, and angry and things like that, um, so they could understand the feelings at those levels. And um, I got books, like transactional analysis, which they called TA for tots, and I'm OK, You're OK, um, a gamut of fairytales, uh, like The Three Little Pigs and things like that, every, I love children's books and every children's book I could get, I brought for the kids. [Pause] Um, I had many, many books for my children. Uh, the books were always available to them. I read to them at bedtime uh, in their beds, other times they sat in my lap during the day, um, like going over the pictures, the sounds and the tone of voice, uh, through me, um, as to what the character was feeling, scared, happy, angry. When I felt like it um, it would be effective and my children's behavior said, "They were really into this story," at that point then I would add my own words and make up more of what had caught their interest. Um, being each character myself as I read added, added more excitement for them and for me. Sometimes we'd lay on the carpet and read and I'd follow their interest, when to stop and when to start, and when sometimes, to turn the page. It was all up to their interest. Um, I read at bedtime as a calming down for all of us, being together and ending our day. Sitting on the couch with them, uh, gave me the feeling of closeness and the uh, children's closeness or bonding with me. Um, and when we read was whenever anybody wanted to read and sometimes I would introduce a new book to them and say I have a new story for you.
TS: OK. What kind of stories did you tell your children? Do you recall any of them?
PS: Oh yeah, oh yeah, I recall them. I made up stories, um, that I told to my children also. They were older and enjoyed scary, uh, scary stories at that time. So, I told them scary stories that chilled them. At bedtime, um, when all were in the same bed, and that's where they had to be for these stories. Um, I usually made up a story according to what they were feeling at different points in their lives. Their favorite was The Wood-Monster, uh, sometimes the kids felt like running away from home and whatever I would pick up with the kids that they were issuing is what I would make a story out of and to get my point across to them too. Um, this, this story involved, this Wood-Monster story involved kids that, uh, felt like running away from home and this story involved kids who decided to do just that one late night. Um, they sneaked out of their bedroom windows and they all met and went into the woods. Um, as they thought this was really cool, and they were sitting under a big tree in the woods, the branches started moving, the kids thinking, uh, that the wind was doing it, but when the branches started to slowly come down and start touching them, they got scared, and the branches were trying to wrap around them, then the trunk of the tree started bending also. And they all started screaming, running away. They discovered as they ran by each tree in the woods that all the trees were alive and wanting to attach their branches around them. There was nowhere they could go to free themselves of this nightmare except home. So they finally all decided that this was not the thing and they got back into the house, uh, through their window and felt the safe, warm comfort of their beds and vowed never to do that again. And also certain stuffed animals my kids had were, um, were also made alive by me. When they got thrown on the floor and not cared about, I made up a story about how the animal felt being treated that way when it loved them so much and wanted to be snuggled up by them at night, I played the animal of course, and then with your arms around it, I still do this once and awhile with my adult children. One of my children was really drawn into this story and today she is very sensitive and compassionate with animals. Um, I also sent my young adult children Easter bunnies and the loving message that went with it, uh, was from the bunny. Like, this bunny talked with me at the store and he was so sweet and loving and really wanted to be with one of you, one of my kids and not left on the shelf in the store all by himself, so I would create that kind of story and attach it to the bunnies and send them to my children.
TS: Do you read stories now? And If so, what kind?
PS: Um, I some of them are made into stories, um, see for the past maybe 25,30 years I've read many new age books, uh, from channeling to personal stories by the authors relating to their major life changes. Um, I have read many self-awareness books and management books and books on raising children. All of my reading basically involved self-improvement at each level of my growth, um, including spiritual growth. I read all of these books to help me be a more effective parent, person, manager, and spiritual being. Um, my best reading time was in bed where I had no interruptions, um, and then I could focus on the information. And I still send my adult children books on topics I think they could gain deeper insight to. [Pause]
TS: What's your favorite book now?
PS: Um, my very favorite book is God on a Harley. Um, it, through that book it was me going through all the same experiences as the author and I saw more clearly what I needed to do.
TS: OK, well thanks Pat.
PS: You're welcome.