The Girl with Wings

My youngest daughter is at that age when sometimes she doesn’t like herself very much. I asked her, how do you get good self esteem? She suspected her answer of getting lots of stuff wasn’t the one I wanted because what happens when the stuff is lost, old or broken? How do you learn to love yourself? She didn’t know. Interesting, as she has lived with me since she was 31/2 and obviously has not absorbed this lesson. I feel it’s in there but needs to be spoken out aloud.

Do I like me, I asked? Yes. Do I find myself amusing? Yes. Do I love me? Yes. How come? Looking at me, how is it I love me? She didn’t know. I’ll tell you the answer I told her at the end of the story.

Let me tell you a story

There was once two parents who longed for a child. When one came to them at long last, they thought she was perfect. She lit up when they came in the room, laughed, cried, played, was joyous, sad and occasionally cranky. Just perfect.

Their family wasn’t so sure. They had noticed larger than expected shoulder blades and mentioned them to the new parents, out of concern for the child. The parents assured them that they would buy or make clothes to accommodate her. Muttering the relatives withdrew.

As the baby grew into toddler, she staggered and tumbled, laughed and cried, sang and spoke her first words to her parents’ delight. The neighbours and friends noticed that the child’s pronounced shoulder blades appeared to be developing a covering of what looked like downy feathers. As good friends they felt duty bound to point this out and suggested depilatory creams for the removal of the offending feathers. The parents laughed and said they were soft to touch and exactly where their child could be stroked into sleep.

The child grew and the blades grew with her. First at kindergarten, then at school, she ran and played, leapt and tumbled, sang and shouted, learnt and danced with all the other children. The downy covering slowly spread down her back and across her shoulders. Her friends often stroked the feathers that ran down her arms for their softness and comfort. The parents were approached by the teachers and the school council about covering up the feathers, demanding she wore long sleeves. The parents simply chuckled and said, in a hot country like ours, she’d be too hot.

By the time the girl was twelve her wings had unfolded. She could run and leap, tumble and dance, spin with wings outstretched. Her friends would laugh and try to catch her, running with arms wide. The children’s parents complained to each other, local businesses, the local Councillors, and the Member of Parliament. They complained until a public meeting was held and worked each other to fever pitch, making a decision to demand that the parents of the girl stop this right now! Together they formed a foaming furious posse of people and marched across town to the house of the parents of the girl with wings.

A spokes person was pushed forward to bang on the front door and the parents answered it. Their daughter squeezed past them to look at the towns people and wave at her friends. The spokes person gathered their fury and sputtered and yelled, what were they thinking of a daughter with wings? What were they doing? How could it be in her best interest? What did they have planned for her future?

The parents looked at the townspeople and across at their daughter, who smiled and spread her glorious wings. Well, said the parents, we were thinking of teaching her how to fly.

and that is the end of the story.

What was my answer to my daughter about how you love yourself? You decide. Then, you practice, until you can fly.


My ducks in a row

My ducks in a row

I like to get my ducks in a row, whether I am organising an event, preparing an e news bulletin, writing my folk tales, organising my household and children, basically corralling my life.

Lately, one of my events has gone hay wire. Too many balls in the air and the ducklings need life vests. Just too much and when the life vest comes off one of the ducklings thought to have been safely corralled, well, keep swimming!

I shake my head sadly and get on with things. Must be a story that goes with this, let me see…

Let me tell you a story

There once was a woman who had so many children she really wasn’t sure where they all came from. One child begat another, or so it seemed. Surely she hadn’t had them all!

When meal times came around all the children would file in through the door and hand over their findings for the day. Greens from the roadside, veggies from helping a farmer, fruit (probably nicked) and always fish. Luckily they lived near a river and there was always plenty growing on or in it. The children would play and scavenge all day and at night their mother took their single contributions and somehow made a feast.

When they were fed, it was story time, the time they all liked best. Everyone would find somewhere or someone to curl up and snuggling, settle down to listen. Mrs Duck would tell tales of the Jumbly Man and his friends. How the children longed to meet him.

One day when the weather kept everyone inside longer than Mrs Duck could stand, there was a knock on the door. Mrs Duck had to swim through the excited, wondering children before giving up and asking the closest “dear” (what was his name?) to answer it.

Who should be there but the Jumbly Man? He was welcomed in and met every single one before every single child disappeared. Poor Mrs Duck was momentarily bewildered, then bustled Jumbly to a chair in front of the fire and made tea.

They had a lovely long chat. It had been so long since Mrs Duck had another adult to talk to that Jumbly’s jumbled talk was quite comforting. He managed to share news about new residents in the village and the river boat family stopping for a time before Mrs Duck began to think about a meal and wondered where the children were.

No sooner had she thought it but they were back. Each bedraggled, muddy child had gone to extra effort for Jumbly’s sake and a staggering feast was created. When everyone had eaten their fill, it was time to snuggle up for stories. In honour of Jumbly, Mrs Duck told a Jumbly Man tale, everybody’s favourite.

And that is the end of the story.

Ah, well, you see, if I just keep paddling, I guess everything will turn out as it does.

What Katid did: A Jumbly Tale

Let me tell you a story

Katid was born on the river. In her family’s flat boat that floated softly down stream, rocking gently side to side. Then they’d float upstream again, and the boat would slap against the current.

As a tiny baby she spent her time watching a patch of sky. She saw the sun come up and go down. She saw clouds sailing by. The gentle rocking of the boat soothed her cries. When she was hungry her mother fed her when she needed changing one of her siblings did that. Faces came and went in her patch of blue blue sky. All of them smiled and loved her. None of them stayed long.

Katid gazed in endless wonder as the sky darkened and twinkling stars came out. She gurgled at the moon before drifting to sleep.

Soon enough she could lift her head and her world view widened. On her tummy she could see the boat deck and the sides of her crib. She would be rotated with a tickle through the day as siblings or parents went past. She watched ants with great intensity as they crawled past her nose, going slightly cross eyed when they scuttled back and forth. On her back again she held long conversations with the sky, waving arms and legs for emphasis. The shapes and colours of the clouds were an amazement.

She began to roll over and was frustrated to learn the restrictions of her pen. Often she would beach against the side, wailing her fury. Her scene changed. With her pen on the lower deck she could see her family as they worked. Shoveling wood into the fire to steam upstream. Or paddles and pushes off the side as they went down. Folk from the land called out, shouts exchanged and every now and then they would fetch to a bank to trade and people would put in orders for the next passing.

By the time they reached the mouth of river their boat would be piled high with goods for market. Docking at the jetty, they sold from the boat. Katid could pull herself up by this time and called out, song-singing gobbeley gook to buyers then laughing when they waved or called back to her.

There was so much to see that Katid was exhausted each night. She only had time for a gurgled acknowledgement of the moon before falling asleep. They were at the market so long that the morning she awoke as usual alongside siblings in her pen, she was surprised by the quiet. The river rocked the boat and she fell asleep again.

Life went on. The boat travelled slowly up the river. When Katid was two she was helping with tasks that kept the boat afloat. The benefit of her height meant she was first to notice leaks or gnaws to draw attention for repair. Katid had the important job of helping her five year old brother. He had just become old enough to take water to the workers and with pride handed Katid the ladle. Katid wanted the bucket. It was too heavy until she tipped all the water out. Water that had to be boiled before drunk. She never repeated her mistake and handled the ladle with the seriousness it deserved.

Katid discussed this with the fish that came to nibble at the crumbs of bread she threw for them. They burbled back at her, in perfect accord. It was much easier to talk to fishes. The family learned to understand Katid’s jumbled words and emphatic gestures. The words never quite came out the way she thought them. Katid saw the looks her family shared whenever she spoke and tried harder to make herself understood until her father told her one day not to worry they understood. Katid realised they did so continued her burbling.

By the time she was three, the family reached the source of the river and travelled round to the back waters to stop for awhile and visit with friends not seen since before she was born.

For the first time in Katid’s short life the family relaxed and for the first time ever Katid stood on a deck that barely moved. Katid was scared to step out onto the land. She felt scared of the children who ran to greet her brothers or the loud men and women delighted to see her parents. Katid wanted to go back into the river’s current, where it was quieter. Then she met the Jumbly Man.

The Jumbly Man stood on the bank of the river. She knew he was the Jumbly Man as she had heard her brothers talk of him. Now he was here. Her brothers tumbled off the boat to greet him. Laughter and jumbled greetings were exchanged along with small gifts of sparkling stones that came from copious jumbly pockets. Katid wanted a sparkly stone. Her brothers whooped and ran off to play revelling in the freedom. Katid wanted to run.

Her parents greeted Jumbly as an old friend and with smiling glances over their shoulders at her walked after their sons to meet their village friends.

There was just Katid and the Jumbly Man. Jumbly smiled at her, then took out a sparkly stone and placed it on the ground. He turned and burbled a jumbled up sentence, smiled and wandered away. Katid was alarmed. Everyone was gone. She really wanted a sparkly stone. She really wanted to run. She really really wanted to talk in her mixed up jumbly way with the Jumbly man.

Finally she couldn’t stand it and screwing up her courage, leapt over the side of the boat. The ground was hard and didn’t move. Katid got her balance and picked up the stone.

It was as dark as the night sky and sparkled with stars. Her delighted face of wonder lifted up to the Jumbly man. He jumbled his understanding at her.

Katid laughed and taking Jumbly’s hand skipped after her family, jumbling with Jumbly all the way

and that’s the end of the story

There was an old woman

Let me tell you a story

There was an old woman who was absolutely sick to death of being treated like a nice, old lady.

She was tired of careful hands under her elbows, helping her across the street.

She was sick of wearing Osti dresses with synthetic cardigans buttoned all the way up to the neck.

She was fed up with playing lawn bowls dressed in white.

She was really tired of morning teas with the Ladies Auxiliary.

The old woman decided that it was time for a change.

To signify this change she bought her very first pair of multi-coloured leggings. A range of wildly clashing shirts, a pair of boots and had a very very short hair cut.

Now they treated her as though she was a slightly mad, nice old lady.

This was not improvement enough. The old woman decided that drastic action had to be taken.

So she ran away and joined the circus.

In the circus she learned how to be part of an human pyramid.

She learned to swing on a trapeze, juggle fire and turn summersaults.

When she returned home they no longer treated her like a nice old lady. Oh no!

Now they treated her as a complete lunatic.

This was a decided improvement.

For not only did they respect her, they also feared her a little bit. They were no longer certain when she would begin to juggle fire or turn summersaults and they were frightened that she may not know when to stop!

That is the end of the story.

© CLHarper 2000