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Interview with Jessica Jones

Jones, Jessica
Toth, Rose
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Stories and storytellers
Jessica Jones retells stories by her parents and her friends.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Rose Toth interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
RT (Rose Toth): Here we go, just leave it // there. //
JJ (Jessica Jones): // There? //
RT: Yeah. Are there any stories you remember being read to as a child?
JJ: Um, there was a story that my mother read to me, um, the whole story line? I don't remember.
RT: What was it called?
JJ: The Boy That Fell Down the Well, I believe. And, um, the one part that I remember from it was, um, there were these two boys from China, I think [sniff], and the younger one fell into a well and the older one walked down the path to where the well was and came upon the well and came upon his brother at the bottom of the well, and he said, "Tikki tikki tembo, no sa rembo, chari bari ruchi, pip peri pembo, my brother has fallen down the well."
RT: [Laugh]
JJ: And they said, he just said that or it was just said in the story over and over, and that's, that's actually the only part that I remember from the story.
RT: Why do you remember it?
JJ: It's because of the "tikki tikki tembo" // part. //
RT: // [Laugh] //
JJ: It's strange. I still say it sometimes just for no reason.
RT: And your mom read it to you?
JJ: Uh-huh, my mom read it to me.
RT: How old were you?
JJ: I was, I'm thinking I was four, four or five years old when she read it to me.
RT: Can you think of any stories that you read as a child? Any books that you read?
JJ: Um, I read [pause], it's hard for me to remember. I read, um, The Color Kittens. It was part of My Little Golden Book series and it was about these three kittens that went around the world just painting everything. And, I think that's pretty much what the whole [laugh], the whole story was about. It was mostly about colors for kids, you know. That was the whole point // of it-. //
RT: // Uh-huh. //
JJ: -I think was for kids to look at colors in the books.
RT: [Pause] Um, what kinds of stories do you tell yourself to keep on going? Stories that, that things that happened to you in the past that you remember in order to, that you pass through and you feel like you can-?
JJ: Um, well, my dad died two years ago and even though I don't feel like I've dealt with it, when it happened, I was very strong, I know that. It's kind of like a blur to me but I know I did a good job at the memorial service greeting people and, you know, it's, keeping the, keeping a good face or however it's put, I don't know. But, um, if I was able to, right afterwards to, to be so calm and to be so strong, I think that later on in my life, I can, I can be the same way. That's, that's the one that comes to mind right away, um-.
RT: Are there any story tellers in your family? Was your father a storyteller?
JJ: No. My father wasn't a storyteller at all. I got him sometimes to tell me stories, but, um-.
RT: Do you remember any of them?
JJ: Uh-huh. Yeah, I remember one story he told me was that he had skipped school and the only person that knew was his brother-in-law. And his brother-in-law was a pretty rich, pretty rich mean guy and he had a car and not a whole lot of people had cars. He was, uh, this is in Hungary. And, um, he drove it around and he busted it and he showed off his car to everybody. But anyways, so he was the only one who knew about it and all he had to do was keep his mouth shut and nothing would have happened to my dad, but he felt that he needed to go to my dad's dad, who was a bastard, excuse me, and, um, and go to my dad's, my dad's sister, his wife, and tell on him. And so [clears throat] my dad being, being who he was, I guess, a naughty little boy, um, one day he took his bike and, um, he knew, he knew the roads that his brother-in-law drove on during the days or he knew somewhat the times or, or something like that and he took the bike and he threw it out in front of his brother-in-law's car. And he just, he didn't care about his bike, he just wanted to, to screw up his brother-in-law's car that he just took so, so much care of and loved so much and he did it. It messed it up real bad. And he just ran away. He got in trouble for that too, but he thought it was worth it anyways. But other than that, I don't remember any other stories that my dad told me.
RT: How about your mom?
JJ: My mom doesn't have, well actually she does have a lot of stories, um, you want me to tell you some of // them? //
RT: // OK. //
JJ: Um, there's stories about, um, not really long stories, but just little, little ones where I'm trying to understand what, what she was like of her and my father when, when me and my sister were really young. They were, they were very romantic and run away like, er, you know, in the house and steal kisses and, um, that's, that's, I don't know, that's not really a story. But, um, another story was that, um, [pause], her, uh, her sister-in-law died really far away, um, from where her and her mother and her aunt were living at the time and, um, they heard, uh, they heard footsteps in the house of where she liked to walk around and it was an old myth that a dead person would go back to their favorite place before they go to heaven and walk around and do, do like their daily routine. They heard footsteps they heard, um, a kitchen chair being pulled out and put back in and only the three of them were the ones that were in the house. And that's what she loved to do, she loved to pull out the stool and sit in the stool in the kitchen and watch, um, my grandmother cook. And so they knew that something had happened to her and sure enough, the next day they had gotten a telegram. That's kind of spooky.
RT: Um, did you ever have something spooky happen to you?
JJ: One time when I was really young, um, it was the summer after 6th grade and that summer I read a whole lot of books and I would stay up really late reading books that were easy for me to read and so I would read about three a night and I would stay up as late as I possibly could sometimes.
RT: What kind of books?
JJ: Books that I had read like a couple of years ago that were required reading back then but now I was just reading them because I was out of books.
RT: Uh-huh.
JJ: So I'd read those and stay up late and, um, I always had a crazy imagination and one time when I walked out of my bedroom to go to the kitchen and I looked and, and there was a hallway right when I opened my door and in the hall it looked like there was a mist covering the entire hallway. And it could just have been that I was just really tired or it was just my imagination, but I shut the door again [laugh] real quick and stayed in my room, I didn't go to the kitchen for anything. That's the only, that's the only really spooky thing that I can think of that's ever happened to me, other than playing with Ouija Boards and letting your imagination go when I was really young. And that game, Light of a, Light as a Feather? That actually worked once. And I opened my eyes and I was still going up higher and higher, that's it.
RT: [Pause] Have you ever read any stories to anyone else?
JJ: Sure, babysitting. But I mean I can't remember the books that they had. And, uh, one time I read The Witches to my mother, I would read her a chapter every night, just because I liked it and I just wanted her to like it as much as me.
RT: What's The Witches?
JJ: It's about, uh, what's his name? Roald, Roald Dahl? It's the guy who wrote the, you know, the James and the Giant Peach.
RT: Uh.
JJ: -And all those.
RT: What was it about?
JJ: Um, witches [laughs]. You know, it was about, um, yeah, it was, it was about this, um, a society of women that were witches and they walked around, um, they were bald, they wore wigs. And, um, [clears throat], they would kidnap little children and I'm not sure exactly what they did to them, and one day this little boy, he was in England he was in a, he was in a hotel, and he went into this conference room and he hid. And it said in, in front of the conference room there was a board that said it was a conference for a society of blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, women blah-blah-blah, and, uh, he hid and anyways, um, it was all witches is what it was. And so the, the high witch or whatever told everybody, you know, "Pull off your wigs," and everybody pulled off their wigs and he was all freaking out because he was in a room with like 200 witches and they could all do terrible things to him. And they did, they ended up turning him into a mouse, I think. But, um, I think he lived that way for the rest of his life. He was a mouse and lived with his grandfather. And I think they set up the house for him all nice so he could get to where he needed to get to, it was a long time ago but I think that's how it went.
RT: Why did you like that story?
JJ: Because you'd think that the little boy was going to go back to little boy, but I don't think he ever did, and it wa-, it just, he was happy being a mouse. So it was, it was a strange ending.
RT: You can't think of any other books that you liked?
JJ: Total? Like ever? // When-. //
RT: // Yeah. //
JJ: -I was little or, or now?
RT: Whatever. That, // that-. //
JJ: // Uh-. //
RT: -You feel, that you still think about that were, or that changed you in some way.
JJ: Um, I think it's called 100 Years of Solitude by-.
RT: That was ( ).
JJ: Oh, Garcia, Gabriel Garcia-.
RT: // Right. //
JJ: // -Is // that right? I read that one just a little while ago. And, uh, that one was, it was just, that one was awesome because all these crazy things that, you know, are not, that just can't happen in real life, happened like every day there and it was a normal thing to them like someone being so beautiful and so perfect that they just, turned into, I think she turned into a bird and just flew off into the sky, you know? Things like that. And how it ended also, because it was like a complete circle. Like it explained everything from the beginning just from the ending. And also how it started. It started like, um, before, before that time, or something like that and you're already staring to think before what time? Before when, you know? // And-. //
RT: // Uh-huh. //
JJ: -It gets you in the very first sentence but, I liked it. Another book? [Pause] I don't read much. Can you cut this off for a second so I can think of a book? Or no? [Laughs]
JJ: OK, OK. So you just said stories.
RT: Yeah.
JJ: OK. Um, my friend told me about, um, how when he was really young he would have dreams that he would be flying, excuse me, over power lines and things like that, and he was really convinced it was astral projection, and so, um, that really stuck in my head, and uh, like he and his sister would be in different rooms and they would hold conversations, like not being able to hear each other because they would be on opposite ends of the house where their parents could hear them, he told me that. I thought that, that was pretty neat. Um, he also told me a story about he went to the beach with his family and another family and, um, everybody was out on the beach except for his dad and the other family's mom. And so he went inside the hotel that they were all staying at and, um, the other family's mom kept telling him, you know, why, "Why don't you go outside and go to the beach with everybody else and play?" And he was, he was asking them, he was really little, you know, and he was asking like, "What are you doing?" You know, "Why are you here?" And like he was pretty much convinced that they were having an affair. And, uh, that stuck in my head, I guess because I knew the other family too. Um, [pause] Let's see my friend told me a story last night about, um, this guy that, uh, has a breathalyzer in his car and he has, uh, he has to blow in it just to start his car // up-. //
RT: // Uh-huh. //
JJ: -And, um, 'cause he got two DUIs in, I think three weeks or something like that or two weeks. Anyway, after, after you are able to start your car, I think you have to, I think you actually have to blow twice and then you can start your car and then you have to pull over after an hour, turn the car off, and do it again. So, I mean, a road trip would just be [laugh], the pits, you know. And then one night, he was all drunk and he was like, uh, "I'm going to, I'm just going to go and blow in it for fun and see what I, see what I get," you know. And, um, he wasn't planning on driving or anything, he just wanted to know. So he was like one point something, you know, definitely above the legal limit and they took his license away again because they thought that he was trying to drive. And they just wouldn't believe him, which is a pretty idiotic thing, I'm sure, I'm sure somewhere in the paperwork that he got it said something about, you know, don't, you know, "If you're drunk don't go playing around," [laughs] "With the breathalyzer and take it for fun." // But-. //
RT: // [Laugh] //
JJ: -He screwed up. Let's see, um, [pause], another story [yawn]. [Long pause] // You know-. //
RT: // So // your mother read stories to you?
JJ: Yeah, she did. She read us, um, The Arabian Nights I think.
RT: Uh-huh.
JJ: Or she started to, I don't think we ever finished it. And, other // books-. //
RT: // Do // you remember any stories from The Arabian Nights?
JJ: Not one.
RT: [Laugh]
JJ: It was a long time ago. I remember what the book looked like, I remember the pictures, but I don't remember the stories at all, um-.
RT: Did she read you to sleep at night or-?
JJ: No, I don't think so. At least the way I remember it, it's just being on the couch downstairs and being read a story to, and then it was time for bed. And only once can I remember sitting on a really big bed with her and my sister and us being read a story. But, maybe she only, no she had to read to us more than twice [laughs].
RT: // [Laugh] //
JJ: // That's // all I can remember, though. My dad didn't read us any stories. No, he taught me how to read actually with, um, a book that was called, um, The Little Wooly , The Little, The Little Duck. But because of his accent, he said "Lilly" and, here's a good story // for you. //
RT: // Uh-huh. //
JJ: Um, I was, I was, I was little I think I was five years old when I was in kindergarten [clears throat], and we were supposed to, um, we were supposed to learn how to read at home, I guess. And then come home and then go to school and show what you'd learned. And, um, they read, um, my dad picked out a book, it was The Little Duckling. And the way he, he would read it to me first and then I would read it, and, um, that was pretty smart actually I think, but anyway, [laugh], um, the way he said it was The Lily Duckling and so I thought that's how you said the word little. And when I went to kindergarten, it was my turn to go up to the teacher to read and I was all nervous and, um, [cough], every time I came to the word "little" I said, "Lily," and she corrected me and said, "Little." And I corrected her and I said, "No, lily."
RT: // [Laughs] //
JJ: // And // then, you know, she just like let it go you know, like it the first couple of times but then the third time, you know, I kept correcting her and she just kept telling me that, "No, it's little," you know, "It's little." And so, I don't know, // I thought it was pretty funny. //
RT: // [Laughs] // [Pause] Do you remember what the story was about?
JJ: No. I have no idea. It was about a little duckling. It wasn't like The Ugly Duckling or anything. I remember what the cover looked like. But I don't // remember-. //
RT: // What did // it look like?
JJ: It was, it was a little duckling [laugh] on the front, he was, he was standing on some, some sand with maybe some grass. Then there was, uh, I think there was just a lake behind him 'cause you could see the grass or something on the other side of it. And then there was like the blue sky above him. And he looked, he looked all proud, when he was puffing out his chest and stuff and that he did something // good-. //
RT: // [Laugh] //
JJ: -In the book. That's, that's all. I think it might have been a My Little Golden Story Book because I collected those when I was little.
RT: Do you remember any other ones that you had?
JJ: Besides that one and The Color Kittens? Um, I think I had The Little Engine That Could. Um, I don't know, I thought about that recently actually but, I can't remember any of the other ones.
RT: What happened to them?
JJ: I have no idea. They're all gone [pause].
RT: Thanks you very much.
JJ: Uh-huh.