A Bed-time Story



The little girl woke up, but she knew right away that she wasn’t for-real waking up, only dream-awake. She was in her own bed, with Mama and Dada sleeping snugly on both sides (Dada snoring a little even) but she still knew this was a dream. She knew this because Mr. Monkey and Br’er Bear were floating above the bed and Snuggles, the kitty, was reading one of Mama’s big-people’s books with no pictures in them. She knew none of them could do any of this in a for-real awake. She was plenty smart like that – Dada said she was pre-cautious – and that meant plenty smart. So she knew this was a dream but she didn’t mind; she liked dreams. You could go to funny nowhere-places all by yourself and make dull-boring things look all interesting in them.

She was wondering where she should go dream-visiting when she noticed the three Nana-ladies standing just inside their bedroom door. Well, not standing exactly because their pointy shoes weren’t touching the ground, but close. Strangely, they neither startled nor scared her. Maybe because this was a dream and she knew no-one can for-real hurt you in a dream (only little children believed in dream monsters). Maybe because they were all dressed in the same funny, frumpy old gown that her own Nana would sometimes be wearing when they visited her on Sunday mornings. Or maybe, it was just their identical, indulgent smiles and that feeling of warmth and love coming from them, much like it did from Mama and Dada, even when they were asleep next to her.

‘’Don’t be afraid, child,’’ said one of them, in a voice that reminded her of the ladies singing ‘gopsel’ in Nana’s record player. ‘’I’m not ‘fraid,’’ she replied. ‘’I know this is only a dream.’’ Seemingly reassured by this, the three ladies approached her bed. ‘’Indeed, child. This is a dream. But we’re real, as are the gifts that we come bearing,’’ said another one. The little girl smiled widely at the sound of gifts. She liked gifts, even when they came all wrapped in stupid bright-coloured paper that she had to tear before seeing them. But then a thought occurred to her. ‘’But it’s not my birthday, and it isn’t Jesus’ either, so, why gifts for me?’’ ‘’Because you’re a very special child who has caught our attention,’’ said the lady who had spoken first. The little girl mulled over this and finally replied, ‘’ but Mama says all children are special.’’ The ladies appeared a trifle nonplussed at this. ‘’Shush, child,’’ began the first one reprovingly and then stopped abruptly to shoo away Snuggles, who now appeared more fascinated with her trailing gown than the book he had been reading earlier. ‘’Don’t you go looking us gift-godmothers in the dogma,’’ admonished the second one. ‘’Just partake of these wonderful gifts we bring you and be happy.’’

‘’Ok, ‘’ said the girl agreeably, although she wasn’t sure what partake meant but it had take in it, and she knew what that meant. At this the first old lady stepped forward, placed her gnarly, rather heavy hand on the little girl’s head and pronounced, ‘’ I give you the gift of great and timeless beauty that the whole world shall envy.’’ ‘’Thank you,’’ said the girl, as she had been taught, although she didn’t feel any different and was a little disappointed that this gift was apparently not one she could see, hold or eat.  As the first old lady stepped back with a self-satisfied smile, the girl queried tentatively, ‘’so this great beauty will keep me happy all the time for-always?’’ This appeared to leave the first old lady completely perplexed and at a loss for words, and with the ‘pop’ of an exploding balloon that startled Snuggles more than anyone else in the room, she promptly disappeared.

Seemingly unflustered by this rather odd turn of events, the second old lady now stepped forward and repeated the hands on the head routine. ‘’I give you the gift of vast and unending wealth that shall be the envy of all.’’ By now resigned to the prospect of non-real ‘gifts’, the little girl again expressed her gratitude before asking, ‘’so I’ll be like Richie Rich rich and that will keep me happy all the time for-always?’’ It was now the turn of the second old lady to appear all tongue tied and with a disapproving look on her face, she flickered out of sight like a candle-flame in an errant breeze.

Now the last old lady, quietly content to stay in the background thus far, stepped forward and placed her, surprisingly light and less weathered, hand on the little girl’s head. ‘’I give you the gift of stories that never stop and the art of telling them that never fails.’’ Now more out of the anticipatory pleasure of prompting another disappearing act than any real hope of a response, the girl asked again, ‘’ thank you for the gift of stories, but will they make me happy all the time for-always?’’

The last of the gift-godmothers smiled, a tad wistfully but yet brightly enough that even Mr. Monkey stopped scratching himself for an instant. ‘’I truly wish that were so, child. But no, there will be times when you’re sad. But for every sadness that comes your way, there’s a story that shall again lift your spirits and remind you how to be happy again. And whenever you need it, such a story will come to you; bright and sparkly, like a light-house guiding you back to happiness. There will also be times when people around you, that you care for, will be sad. And they’ll need a story to find happiness again too. And when they do, you will always have the right story for them and also, know just the right way in which to tell it. Because not all the stories that come to you will have happy endings but, you’ll see, that often, it is in the telling of the tale that smiles are found and shared, rather than in the tale itself. So take this gift of story-telling, a gift that forever keeps on giving, and use it well, for your own self and the World around you.’’

And with that the last old lady turned away, presumably to depart in a relatively conventional fashion. But just then a thought struck the little girl. ‘’But wait, where will I find the stories when I need them? In my head?’’ The departing gift-godmother looked back and said indulgently,’’ No, silly child, you’ll find them all around you. In everything and in everyone. You just have to look deep enough.’’ And then she dove rather elegantly into the open pages of the book Snuggles had been reading and quite predictably, disappeared.

The little girl clapped her hands in delight at everything that had not-really happened so far in this funny old dream and decided to get up and join Br’er Bear, Mr. Monkey and Snuggles in what appeared to be an impromptu version of the Mackerena.

The next thing she knew she was waking up, for real this time, because Mama was giving her a squishy hug and a big kiss, like she did every morning. ‘’It looks like my baby slept well,’’ said Mama. What do you want for breakfast, little one?’’ The little girl stretched, yawned and then said, ‘’I want to tell you a story, Mama.’’




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