Before paper, the art of storytelling was an oral tradition passed on from generation to generation. I never thought much about it until the tale of Matthew Marshmallow recently reemerged at a family reunion.
“Aunt Betty, I think we should have a retelling of Matthew Marshmallow.” My nephew implored. Soon, the entire gang of thirty-something nieces and nephews chimed in. “Please, Aunt Betty.” Chrissy (mother of three) begged. "We want to hear the story again. Didn’t you ever write it down?"
Soon the room buzzed around me: “I remember a big storm...” “Ice cream floats...” “Who remembers King Marsh?” “Don’t you remember Matthew Marshmallow had to travel to see Mother Rain at the top of Hershey Mountain?” “No, the space ship door was left open!”
I thought about it for a moment and realized that the beauty of the “story” is that it was never written. It was a story told time and time again by me to countless nieces, nephews, and their friends. Even my younger sisters, who now joined the conversation, added their own memories of Matthew Marshmallow and his spaceship journey to visit the planet Marsh where King Marsh ruled and candy cane flowers grew.
The cool thing about this story is that each person had their own special version of the tale. I know this to be true because each time I told the story to one niece or nephew or sister it would change slightly to make him or her an integral part of the story. Matthew would find a friend with the same name as said niece, nephew or sister behind a lollypop flower and they’d set out on their own adventure exploring Marsh.
In one version of the story there would be a great storm. In another version, they would meet a Hershey Kiss. Every version had a lesson and, of course, every version ended with...”and that is how we got marshmallows.”
When I sat down at my keyboard today, my intention was to finally write the story of Matthew Marshmallow for my family. However, I discovered something as my fingers began to type; “Once upon a time...”, I don’t want to write the story down. Putting it on paper would cause it to lose it’s charm. It would become stagnant.
The beauty of this story is that it’s still so vivid in so many imaginations simply because, like all good stories, it touched a deep part of each person’s soul. If I wrote it down, I would be leaving out the soul of the story. I’d be leaving out the parts that made it extra special to each and every listener over the many many years it was told.
So, my dear loved ones, this story will never be written because it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be the story of the crazy aunt, sister, mother who loved to tell stories to you. Your crazy aunt told you your own personal story in hopes that you would carry it in your heart forever. She told you your story so that you could take that story and mold it and shape it and tell it to your own children someday. Timeless. It is the timeless story about love. In fact, it’s not really about a marshmallow at all.