In 2003, Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, began collecting the stories of everyday Americans with the idea that everyone has an important story to tell. The following interview of Cynthia Rahn is from a collection of stories, "Listening is an Act of Love":
I lived very far out in the country, and I had just started kindergarten with a lot of kids from town that I didn't know.
We had an assignment to bring in either a toy or a stuffed animal or something you found in your barn so that we could create a barnyard. Mrs. White was a wonderful teacher.
She said, "Go home, find something that has to do with a farm animal or a barn, and bring it in tomorrow, and we'll create a farmyard scene here at kindergarten." We were very excited about it when we left to go home. But once I got home, I took off my school clothes and ran outside to play. I completely forgot about the assignment and played until dark.
When my mother got home from work, we came in and ate and got ready to go to bed. And then I realized I had forgotten to do anything to prepare for this assignment.
And so, here was momma, just got home from work, tired, and I said, "Oh my gosh, I've got to get a cow or a hoe or a stuffed animal," something that represents a farm. We looked, and I did not have one single farmyard toy.
It was dark, and it was time to go to bed. I started to cry. I got really upset. "I can't go to school tomorrow and not have anything." Momma said, "It's too late. There are no stores open. You should have thought about this when you got home. You waited too late. You weren't responsible. You have to go to bed now."
The next morning I got up and the first thing I thought of was "I don't have anything to take to school." Momma worked, so she had to leave early.
She would leave us breakfast.
I went downstairs, and sitting on the kitchen table was a barn made out of notebook paper. She had just taken plain notebook paper and folded it; and she folded the walls, she folded the roof, she folded the doors that opened so horses could go in and out. She had shutters on the windows. She had little steps that went up to the loft. And it was just sitting there. It was like magic. I looked at it -- there wasn't a staple in it. There was no tape.
She had just folded a barn for me.
I was so happy and excited when I saw that barn. I was like, "I can't believe she did that!"
My sister took me to kindergarten. And when I came in, the other kids had bags of storebought plastic farm animals.
And everyobody was so amazed at my barn. I felt like the most special kid in the class. I have no idea how long that would have taken my mother to do or how she figured out how to make that barn. I just felt like a queen. And I knew, too, how much she cared.