It seems like a simple question: If you could ask me anything in the world, what would it be? Anna Freeman poses this to her 8-year-old daughter, Brianna.
"Do you like unicorns?" Brianna asks.
"I do," says Anna, chuckling.
Brianna is obsessed with unicorns. She knows "they're not technically real," but they're real in her mind.
When her mom asks just why Brianna likes them so much, though, the answer isn't what she expected.
"They're cute. And they have horns, so they could attack their bullies," she says during their StoryCorps interview in Chicago.
Brianna has been experiencing bullying at school. Her voice trembling, Brianna tells her mom that the girl who bullies her makes her feel mad and sad. The bullying makes her feel like she is not the person she was before — like she is a ghost.
"After she bullied me, I didn't have a smile on my face," Brianna says.
Anna asks Brianna why she thinks the girl who bullies her says mean things.
"Because maybe she wants attention, but maybe she doesn't get it at home," Brianna says.
Anna, who is 30, tells her daughter that she, too, was bullied. She was in high school at the time, and even though she acted like it didn't affect her, it still hurt.
"I was trying to be brave and tell everybody in the world, that, no, it didn't bother me, but deep down inside, it did," Anna says. "It made me feel like I was nothing."
Brianna is quick to respond.
"Well, you're something to me," she says.
And you're something to me, her mother replies.
"I love you more than a unicorn, and I really love unicorns," Brianna says. "I feel like you're the best mom in the world, and that makes me happy."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Mitra Bonshahi.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
That music, of course, means it is time for StoryCorps. Now, most of the people who step into one of those StoryCorps booths have never interviewed anyone before. StoryCorps provides suggested questions to help them along, but as every great interviewer knows, the best moments are often the ones you don't plan for. That is what Anna Freeman discovered when she sat down with her 8-year-old daughter, Brianna.
ANNA FREEMAN: If you could ask me anything in the world, what would it be?
BRIANNA FREEMAN: Do you like unicorns?
FREEMAN: I do. Do you think Unicorns are real?
BRIANNA: Well, they're not technically real, but they're real in my mind.
FREEMAN: Can I ask you a question?
FREEMAN: What is your obsession with unicorns?
BRIANNA: They're cute. And they have horns, so they could attack their bullies.
FREEMAN: Bullies, that's something you've been experiencing lately.
BRIANNA: Yes, at school, people saying that they hate me and putting their hands on me. It's a tough experience.
FREEMAN: The girl that's been bullying you, how does she make you feel?
BRIANNA: She makes me feel like I'm a ghost. I get mad. I get sad. I'm not the person that I was.
FREEMAN: What do you mean by that?
BRIANNA: After she bullied me, I didn't have a smile on my face.
FREEMAN: Why do you think she's saying these mean things?
BRIANNA: Because maybe she wants attention but maybe she doesn't get it at home. If you were in this situation, how would you feel?
FREEMAN: I would feel exactly like you.
BRIANNA: Because we're pretty much twins?
FREEMAN: Yeah, pretty much.
BRIANNA: Have you ever experienced a bully?
FREEMAN: When mommy was in when high school, freshman year, I was bullied.
BRIANNA: Did they ever hurt you?
FREEMAN: I was trying to be brave and tell everybody in the world that, no, it didn't bother me, but deep down inside, it did. It made me feel like I was nothing.
BRIANNA: Well, you're something to me.
FREEMAN: And you're something to me.
BRIANNA: I love you more than a unicorn, and I really love unicorns.
BRIANNA: I'm not laughing over here, so. I feel like you're the best mom in the world and that makes me happy.
(SOUNDBITE OF FREDRIK'S "ALINA'S PLACE")
GREENE: Brianna Freeman with her mom, Anna, in Chicago. That conversation will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress with the rest of the StoryCorps collection.
(SOUNDBITE OF FREDRIK'S "ALINA'S PLACE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.