'Stories by Grumps' keep local author, grandchildren connected during COVID-19
Posted January 22, 2021 12:29 p.m. EST
Updated January 22, 2021 12:34 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Local writer Bob Cairns is known to his children and grandchildren as the best storyteller ever. Now, especially during COVID-19, he is encouraging other families to share stories with their loved ones.
Cairns wrote for North Carolina State University for 34 years and is the author of several novels. He started his own book review website, Past Page Turners, where he recently launched a section for grandparents called "Stories by Grumps."
Stories by Grumps showcases Cairns' best stories for kids and inspires other grandparents to share theirs. The stories are much like the ones his daughter, Liz, remembers hearing in her childhood.
"I think one of my best childhood memories is my dad telling us stories at Christmas time," Liz recalled. "I think what made them so special is my dad would place my brother, Matt, and me in the story. And so we'd actually be in a snowy field, you know, going to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus and all the reindeer."
Liz said her dad has always been a storyteller. She believes he got the skill from his mother, who "was the same way, just really funny with an amazing memory."
Liz and her young children, who live out of state, have missed their favorite storyteller during the pandemic, sneaking in only one or two short, safe visits in the past year.
When Liz and her husband struggled to keep their children, 3 and 7, engaged while spending so much time at home, Cairns used his stories to help.
"Dad started getting into this probably about the time when we were just starting to quarantine and homeschool," Liz said. "My husband and I were always looking for ways to keep our kids busy, and this was Dad's way to help us out. It was some new material -- it wasn't us having to read a book we'd already read 20 times."
Cairns would call Liz to ask what the kids had done recently. Whether it was a hike or watching Harry Potter, he would write a story they could relate to. Then he would email it to Liz so she could read it at bedtime.
Whether it's through email, snail mail, on the phone or on a video call, Cairns recommends all grandparents missing their grandchildren use stories to stay in touch during the pandemic.
"If they're comfortable with the technology, it's a nice idea to do an audio recording or a Zoom call," Liz said.
Any story told by a grandparent is special, but it's the personal touches that make Cairns' tales stand out. Liz said her favorite stories inject family members into the story or are based on real-life events.
"Sometimes my dad writes about his own childhood, which is great, because my kids didn't know that side of him," Liz said. "They can learn about him growing up."
Another family favorite? "Dream" stories, where anything is possible, like a favorite stuffed animal coming to life, wrecking the house and causing chaos.
"They love that," Liz laughed.
Cairns has now written more than 50 stories for his grandchildren. You can read the stories or get ideas and writing tips on his website.