Thursday, September 17, 2009

Once Upon A Time...

...there was a little girl who lived in a very big city. In fact, it was one of the biggest cities there ever was in the whole world. But, she didn't think of it as big; it was simply home. Every now and then her mother took her and her brother and sister into the "downtown" of the big city. She didn't know why it was called "downtown," but it meant riding on a train up in the air - a train her mother called an "L"," and looking into pretty store windows, and having lunch at a restaurant called Jacques. They always dressed up to go "downtown," and that made it special too. Downtown was like a tall forest, but the trees were made of brick and concrete and steel, and stood straight and tight like broad-shouldered giants standing arm-in-arm. The little girl's name was Lindy, and she loved going into the brick forest. She wasn't at all afraid, even though her mother insisted they all hold hands so no one would get lost, and even though some people downtown talked to themselves right out loud.

Lindy wasn't the little girl's real name; but, it was the name her father gave her and the only name he ever called her. He told her about a man who flew across the Atlantic Ocean all by himself and made it safely to the other side. His name was Charles Lindbergh, and although Lindy's father didn't care much for the pilot's political ideas (which her father declared were "rusty") he liked a song that was written about Charles Lindbergh. Lindy's father loved to cross his right leg over his left, and give Lindy a ride on his foot while he sang, "Lucky Lindy up in the sky, Lucky Lindy flying so high." And - whoosh - up he'd ride Lindy and then - boom - down she would go. This game made them both happy. Although Lindy's father didn't care much for Lindbergh, he did think he had "guts," and guts were very important to Lindy's father. But when he talked about Charles Lindbergh's guts, Lindy's mother would narrow her eyes and tighten up her mouth, and say something about using words that the children might repeat, and guts was not one of the words she wanted the children to repeat. Nevertheless, Lindy's father was determined to win the argument, and Charles Lindbergh had guts it was and guts it was going to be no matter what mother thought about it.

There was nothing in the little girl's life that caused her to fear anything, until the night she was awakened by the sound of someone talking very low and far away. It sounded like her father's voice, but her father's voice was big and deep. Deep like a when she and her sister would stand on a wooden soda crate and yell down the almost empty rain barrel and the sound would come booming back at them. She got out of bed and carefully crept towards the living room and peered around the corner. The room was dark, except for a small lamp. Her father was sitting in his chair with both of his feet on the floor, his elbows on his knees, and his hands clasped in front of him. A cigarette with a long ash jiggled in his clenched fingers and an almost empty bottle of amber liquid stood sentinel on the floor. He was talking about a dog of long ago named Moochie, and about how a man in a car swerved to hit Moochie, about how her father chased the man as he drove away, how he ran for blocks down the city streets until he collapsed from exhaustion. Her father called the man bad names that Lindy knew would cause her mother's eyes to narrow and her lips to tighten. She looked to see if someone else was sitting in the darkness; but, her father was alone. She realized he was crying. Now she felt afraid. At the time she didn't realize that fathers cried. As she got older, she would learn that the good ones did.

A short time after she saw her father cry, Lindy began to have a nightmare. She was in a tunnel that looked like a subway station with gray walls, a gray rounded ceiling and a dark, wet pavement. Then she heard the "ba boomp ba boomp" sound, like the last echo of a train's retreating wheels, then a growl, and a hiss. And without turning around she tried to run, but her feet were lead. The dream came back again and again, and she became afraid to go to sleep. Then one night, while being chased by the unknown beast, she struggled to scream. She tried and she tried and finally let out a yelp that woke her up. Standing by her bed was her mother. "Had a bad dream, honey?" Her mother crawled into her bed and drew Lindy close and stroked her cheek. "Do you know what courage is, Lindy?" "Being brave?" the little girl responded. "Well, Courage and Bravery are sisters. Courage is a little older and wiser and lives up here," she said, tapping Lindy's forehead. Then she placed her hand where Lindy's heart beat and said, "Bravery lives here." Lindy looked over at the crib where her brother was fast asleep and asked, "Do they have a brother?" Mother's eyes followed Lindy's and she smiled knowingly. "Well, baby, their brother's name is Fearless." "And where does Fearless live?" With that, Lindy's mother tickled her feet until they both laughed. "He lives here where he can run, and jump and climb things he shouldn't."

"The next time you have the bad dream, I want you to use your courage and turn around. And then I want you to use your bravery and stare right back at the monster. And then Fearless can take over and chase the monster away! How does that sound?" It sounded like a pretty good idea. Lindy's mother turned out the light and sat on the floor next to the bed, and petted her hair. Her mother's perfume was Wind Song, and Lindy knew her mother was close because the familiar fragrance wrapped her up like a blanket. Eventually, the bad dream returned; but, Lindy was prepared with a plan - and it actually worked. The only glitch was Fearless. He ran backwards and out of the tunnel (so the monster might still be there.) But the nightmare was gone forever. When she told her father about defeating the monster with her Courage, Bravery and Fearlessness, Lindy's father was proud of her. "You got guts, kid," he said with a wink.


  1. What a marvelous story! is it part of the book you are writing?

  2. Stefanie: Not really. It's just a little story about my nightmare and my parents. Maybe one day when I write my memoirs, tho....

  3. Beautiful. I love how it starts with the child being sheltered, and travels through her growing awareness of the vulnerability of her father, the the emergence of her own fears, and her learning how to face them. And I'm glad she had Fearless brother to keep her company!

  4. Janell thank you so much. You have probably gotten to the "monster under the bed stage" with your little ones. Hopefully, their dreams will all be sweet ones.

  5. Oh, Grad (big sigh here in Sydney), I love your family. Your parents sound pretty terrific. And if ever I have a child who has nightmares, I will remember this story, and I will retell your tale of Courage, Bravery and Fearlessness taking those bad dreams down. With a nod to gutsy Lindy, of course.

  6. Di, my parents would be the first ones to tell you that they had their flaws, and weaknesses, and made mistakes. And yet, yes, we thought they were pretty terrific (and still do). And you will have that child...sans nightmares I hope.