The Story Lady of Washington

Published 8:00 am Saturday, February 10, 2024

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited to include correct information about Mima Dixon’s descendants.

By CLARK CURTIS

For the Washington Daily News

Mima Dixon was born and raised in Washington. Right out of high school she wanted a taste of the big city and moved to Baltimore. However, that didn’t last long as she became homesick, and returned to her home. She has two adult children, four grandchildren, and three great grandchildren that have brought her great joy. She has done a lot of things over the years, having worked at Beaufort County Community College for 20 years, and the BHM Regional Library in Washington for another ten, just to name a few. Though she admits without pause, that storytelling has by far been her favorite. “I always wanted to be a school teacher,” said Dixon. “So I went back to school and wound up taking a job at Farm Life Elementary School in Vanceboro. I was the librarian there for ten years, and that’s where I discovered my love of books and storytelling, particularly when it came to children.”

She has remained true to her passion over the years, hence the nickname “The Story Lady of Washington.” “I was in the grocery store one time, and this young child ran up to me and gave ⌄me a big hug,” said Dixon. “Her grandmama was with her and yelled out “you don’t know that lady!” The little girl looked back at her grandmama and said, “I do know her, that’s the Story Lady.” “That one really got me.”

It is safe to say that storytelling and children were her calling.  She recounted her time at BHM Regional Library, while working with the Read Me a Book program. “That was the ideal job,” said Dixon. “We went out and read and told stories to daycare and home care children. I was devastated the day that they announced that they would no longer be doing the program.”

Dixon said there were also some instances when the children were not always the best behaved, but she would always make the best of the situation. There was the time a young boy, who was rather hyperactive, refused to settle down. “We were storytelling at a daycare and I gave the little boy some finger puppets,” said Dixon. “During the reading of the Little Red Hen, his job was to hold up the animal character we were talking about. To our surprise, when the time came, he had pulled the eyes off of the finger puppets. Several years later we were doing some storytelling at Head Start. The same child saw us come in, and ran directly into the story room and eagerly sat down awaiting our story. I just looked up and said “thank you, Lord.”

Dixon said that she has also done storytelling for adults, but is drawn back to the children. “The children always looked so interested in the stories you were telling them, as if they were mesmerized,” said Dixon. “It also makes me feel so good to be around them and knowing what it means to them. To this day I have some adults walk up to me and say, “hey, I remember you, you came to my daycare.”

As for her passion for storytelling, she’s not sure where it all came from. “I’ve been asking myself that for a long time,” said Dixon. “I’m not sure if it came from being a librarian and reading stories to the children at Farm Life Elementary, or just wanting to be a teacher. I also remember when I was a child, preachers would come into town and often stay at our home. One happened to be a retired school teacher and we would sit and play invisible school. I’ve even gone so far as to do a family genealogy, and I could not find anyone who was a storyteller. However, there were a lot of singers and I do love to sing, as well,” she said with a huge grin and a chuckle.”

Dixon has also had the opportunity to take her storytelling and reading talents to, of all things, the Senior Games. “Some folks from the Grace Martin Senior Center asked me if I wanted to participate, what I didn’t know at the time was, they had a category for storytelling,” said Dixon. “I read one of my favorites, the Wide Mouthed Frog, and won a bronze medal.”

She has also told stories at the Brown Library, the Estuarium and the Grace Martin Senior Center. She even portrayed Harriet Tubman in a play. So would she change any of it, “No,” she quickly replied. “I didn’t realize how much I had done and how much I really loved it until I started looking through my files in preparation for todays’ interview. I have thoroughly enjoyed it all and would not change a thing, other than telling more stories.”

And that she did. I was the sole audience for one of her favorites, How an Alligator Got Its Crackling Skin. For the next ten minutes I too became mesmerized with her storytelling, and yes! her singing skills. What a special treat!

In recognition of Black History Month, Clark Curtis will be taking a closer look at some of the people, places, and events that have helped mold the story of Washingtonswealth of history and her interesting people.