Word Witch

Carding & Spinning, Green Castle, Green Castle 2019, Noble Blue Eagle 6/17 - 29

White Crystal Worldbridger 6.28.19

He has a sweet tooth. My youngest, at five, knows sugar too well for my tastes. I know how it happens when you’re far removed in age from older siblings.

Once upon a time there was a woman with four children, spaced two years apart they were babies and toddlers together. They watched their mother in the kitchen as she stirred and mixed and they played in the cupboards, with pots and pans and wooden spoons, stirring and mixing together. They knew sugar the way they knew turmeric, as something that was added to another thing, all whisked together with a pinch of this and a sprinkle of that, turning into another thing that they enjoyed when done. When they went to the grocery store, the woman fastidiously steered them toward fruits and vegetables where they picked out onions, broccoli, bananas, peppers, and kale; bringing them to their noses and sniffing, turning them over in their hands as their mother did. The shelves in the other parts of the store were a mystery to them and their mother was happy with this. At the checkout counter, lined with shelves displaying candy, lighters, batteries, and magazines, the children pointed to the brightly colored packages, yellow, orange, red, green, giggling as they wondered curiously about what was in them. They’d go home and snack on peas picked from the garden, hard boiled eggs collected from the chicken coop, carrots and cheese; playing happily under the tables with cushions and blankets. But the woman couldn’t shepherd them forever, and they grew and changed, as children inevitably do.

They began to notice crackers and cookies came out of boxes at friends’ houses. Eventually they saw them at the grocery store and knew where they came from. It wasn’t much later that they discovered candy too, and the cat was out of the bag. When they went to the grocery store, they went with an awareness of what was in those brightly colored packages, that the world of shelves beyond fruits and vegetables held boxes with cookies and crackers. And before long the mother was asked by four voices in chorus, “Couldn’t they please buy some of those for snack? Please! Please? Please! Why not? Why? Please!” So began a test of wills.
The mother was strong, she called on the goddesses of endurance, resolve, and patience to aid her, and they did. She sang songs of forgetfulness that she wove around her children, and they forgot about cookies, crackers, and candy, boxes and packages and wrappers. But the god of caprice and mischief took notice and found sly ways to rekindle the children’s memories, delighting in the woman’s frustration.

Older still the children grew, squirrelling coins found on the sidewalk in their pockets, happy with the jingle and jangle. Before long they had their own little sums, a mixture of coin and paper gifted, and inevitably, as these things happen, they’d wander off in the grocery store and purchase a bit of this and that, known contraband, deliciously enjoyed out of their mother’s watchful eye. The woman had a fifth child, far removed in age from his four older siblings, born into a world already shaped by them into which he entered wide eyed and curious. Privy to their shenanigans, he knew where the hidden paths to blueberry bushes lay before he could sit. He knew where the doors to fairyland opened and when to enter them safely before he could crawl. He knew what to leave goblins so they didn’t steal from you before he could walk. He knew the plants to lay on a cut and the ones to lay on a bump before he could talk; and by the time he could run he knew the taste of candy, crackers, and cookies, as well as the wrappings they came in. How do you put a cat bag in a bag once it’s out? You find ways around the cat and the bag, you watch the god of tricks and listen, you learn to be canny yourself, and when the opportunity arises you catch it by the tail and tell a story . . . .

Once there was and once there wasn’t, a little boy with a blister in his mouth. It hurt something fierce and terrible, so that he couldn’t eat anything sweet or sour, hard or crunchy until it was gone for ten fingers worth of days. He swished his mouth with a concoction of bitter plants and counted the days, closing his small fingers as each passed, waiting until it was gone. One day his mother told him a story . . . .

Once upon a time there was a boy named Whispering Wind. One day he went to a farm with his parents to buy eggs. He saw a hen under an oak tree, a beautiful hen with shining, golden feathers and he ran to catch her, but the hen ran away. He dug up a worm and held it out to her, and she came to pluck it from his fingers. Quick as a flash, Whispering Wind caught her in his arms just as the farmer called out, “Don’t touch that hen!” It was too late; the hen was in Whispering Wind’s arms and he was stuck to her! Then a little girl saw them and came to rub the henny, and she got stuck as well. Her parents tried to pull her off and next thing you know they were stuck also. The farmer shook his head and sighed. “Follow me” he told them, “We’re going to the healer in town to sort this out.” He got into his truck and drove slowly, they followed behind on foot. As they walked through town, more people got stuck to them, until they reached the healer’s shop and all crowded in. The healer mixed up a brew in a bucket and splashed them all with it and they came loose. The hen flapped onto a table, clucked and laid a golden egg, then the farmer picked her up, as only he could touch her without getting stuck, pocketed the golden egg, and they all went home. The End.

The little boy asked his mother to tell this story again but this time he didn’t want anyone to get stuck. So when the mother told it and reached the part where Whispering Wind had caught the hen, she said, “Whispering Wind held the henny and rubbed her shining feathers, and the hen was happy.”
And the little boy asked, “Is that the end? Make it longer Ma.”
His mother said, “Then Whispering Wind stroked the hen’s wings, and scratched her head and under her neck,” and as she told the tale, she stroked and scratched and tickled her son, who was seated on her lap.
He wriggled and giggled, as she rubbed his back and under his arms, and she said, “Whispering Wind rubbed the hen’s belly and she clucked and laid a golden egg on his lap! He was so surprised the jumped and the egg fell to the ground and cracked!”
The little boy stopped wiggling and giggling, his eyes big and round, he asked, “What was in the egg Ma? I know, make it be candy!!”
“Whispering Wind looks down and to his great surprise he sees that the cracked egg has candy in it,” and before she can continue the little boy said, “He eats it up, then he picks up the hen and rubs her belly and she lays another egg, and he cracks it and eats more candy! He keeps doing this, and he puts all the candy into his pockets and backpack and goes home with it. And he eats it all then he eats all the eggs in the house so they have to go back to the farm for more, and he takes many bags with him and finds the golden hen and gets more candy! Tell it like this Ma!”
Ten fingers of days pass by, then another ten fingers, and two more. The little boy’s mouth blister has gone, but he’s forgotten all about it. His mother has told him this story, spun from his own fancy, many times over the days and he’s happy to hear it over and over again. He snacks on sauerkraut that he helped her make, checks the blushing peaches dangling from their branches to see if they’re ripe, fills the back of his yellow dump truck with pruned grape leaves and pebbles that he lays out in circles while he chatters and summer rolls on, blisteringly hot until thunder rumbles and then they soak in the rain. His older siblings have understood the unspoken rule: cookies, crackers, and candy are not to be brought home. So far, the inevitable has been diverted, even if only slowed down. The woman leaves offerings for the goddesses of innovation, wit, and playfulness, and tokens for the gods of determination, fortitude, and humor to guide her; if she meets the inevitable again, she knows she’s well prepared.

My youngest has a sweet tooth. As of now he’s content with blueberries, cherries, whipped cream, and sweet stories; they seem to satisfy his tooth. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m not counting the days either; he’s in good health and spirits and I, I am content knowing I am a Word Witch.

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