Tuesday, March 20, 2007

#162 - Magic Story - Second in a Series

(Children have a wonderful appreciation for the absurd. The more fantastic the story, the more they enjoy it. Even in the case of a story where the moral clearly applies to their own situation they just eat it up. If the hero - or, in this case, heroine - can be assumed to be one of my listeners, they will be truly enthralled. This Magic Story was created during a time when the Woodyettes shared a room, with inevitable results.

The Magic Story creative process is strictly ad hoc. In most cases, I get about halfway through the story before the moral of it catches up with me and helps me finish it gracefully. This story sprang into my mind nearly complete before I'd gotten past the first sentence or two.)

The Messiest Room in the World

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in the messiest room in the world.

She knew she did. Her Mommy and Daddy never missed an opportunity to tell her how concerned they were about her room. She didn't mind, though, because she knew where everything was. If she didn't, that was okay, too. Someday she'd find whatever it was she was missing.

Someday never came, though. Day after day, week after week, the room grew messier and messier. Mommy and Daddy begged her to pick things up and straighten up her messes, but all to no avail. So they watched with increasing anxiety as the piles grew. "One day," they told their daughter, "you'll disappear in this room and we'll never see you again."

The first inkling of trouble had come when Mommy could no longer walk across the floor. There was no floor; at least, not one that she could actually see. Daddy tried to reach her bed one night to tuck her in, but twisted his ankle and had to hop carefully back out of the room. From that night on, the little girl tucked herself into bed.

Piles began to grow. First, one corner of the room contained a teetering pile of dirty clothes that had never found their way into the laundry. Since Mommy couldn't make her way over to the pile to carry even a small part of it to the washing machine, they simply bought more clothes at a local thrift store. That way the little girl would at least have clean clothes to wear.

More piles grew in the room. Toys; books; clothing; old petrified sandwiches; silverware that Mommy hadn't seen in six months. Eventually the furniture in the room simply disappeared. First the end table, since it was the smallest. Soon, however, both the small white desk and the dresser were gone from sight. The little girl had cleared a small space on her bed so that she could sleep. The rest of her bed, I'm sorry to say, was covered with more and more piles of stuff.

Then it happened. One day, the little girl disappeared completely. The piles had grown to the point where the little girl was no longer able to find her own way out of her room. Mommy stood at the door and called for her, but there was no answer. The piles appeared to be sound-proof. Mommy was very worried because the little girl would surely get very hungry. She called Daddy at work.

"It finally happened, Dear," said Mommy. "She's disappeared and hasn't had anything to eat today."

Daddy made thoughtful noises on the other end of the phone. "Let me think about it, Sweetheart," he said. "I'll call you back in a little while."

Daddy made a few phone calls from work, then jumped in his car and drove home. He wanted to be there to supervise the work that he'd just arranged.

Before long, several great big trucks pulled up to the house. Each great big truck was carrying five or six great big men. Each great big man had five or six great big muscles in each of their arms. They looked like they could pick up and carry just about anything. This was exactly what Daddy wanted.

"Right this way, gentlemen," invited Daddy. "You'll find the room just down this hallway."

Mommy looked very worried, but the biggest of the great big men assured her. "Don't worry, Ma'am," he said. "We've seen this sort of thing before. We'll find your little girl."

With that, the biggest great big man blew on a whistle that hung from his neck. "All right, men!" he shouted to the other great big men. "Start carrying piles out of the house!"

The great big man nearest the room looked inside, gulped once, and promptly walked right up to the very first pile he encountered. Using all five or six great big muscles in his arms, he picked up the pile and carried it straight outside to the waiting trucks. One by one, the other great big men followed his example, and soon a line of great big men was seen coming and going from the little girl's room.

As they continued to work, the piles in the room gradually got smaller and smaller. By four o'clock that afternoon, one great big man gave a shout and said he'd uncovered the dresser. By four-thirty the small white desk had been spotted. At five-fifteen, however, the bed was cleared off and the biggest great big man blew on his whistle one more time.

"Stop!" he shouted. "Has anyone seen the little girl yet?"

The great big men stopped and scratched their heads. Piles that had once been inside the little girl's room now sat in the trucks or on the lawn of the house as they waited to be loaded. One by one each pile was carefully inspected. Suddenly a shout went up from the middle of the lawn. "Here she is!" one of the great big men yelled. "We must have just brought her out!"

Mommy and Daddy rushed over to the pile on the lawn. There, sleeping soundly on top of the pile, was their daughter. She had gotten so tired from trying to find her way out of her room that she'd simply crawled onto the nearest pile and fallen asleep.

The little girl, now awake, watched with interest as the great big men continued loading every single pile from her room onto their great big trucks. "But, Mommy," she said with concern in her eyes, "shall I have anything left in my room?"

"Of course, Dear," Mommy replied. "However, now that your room has been cleaned out, you will never again have so much stuff that you can't find anywhere to put it. You also will have to promise that you will faithfully straighten your room every single day before you go to bed at night. If you can do that, we can promise that you'll have all the toys, books, and clean clothes that a little girl your age should have."

The little girl promised. As the great big trucks drove off with the great big men and the great big loads of stuff to be donated to the thrift stores, the little girl realized how silly she'd been. Far better to spend a few minutes every day cleaning up, than spend an entire day lost in her own room!

Mommy was as good as her word. Every birthday found the little girl receiving wonderful presents from family and friends. She then would immediately go through her old things, and find toys and clothes that she could donate to some other child who needed them.

She worked very hard for it, but you can bet that the little girl lived quite happily ever after.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

#161 - School Rules

Wandering the halls of Wonderwood Academy at night can be an interesting experience. One never knows what evidence of the day's teachings may be lurking in some hallway, or on one of our many display boards. Last night, while traversing the path to our restroom, I noticed the following hand-written sign tacked up on a table leaf bulletin board:
School rules:
no hitting
no bad words

tell the truth

rule of the week:

no bully's
This was obviously written by one of our two students. I'm not terribly sure which, but it makes no difference.

The Woodyettes were obviously playing "school." I, myself, played school numerous times as a child. It was my intention in those days to become a teacher so I could become an autocrat and lord over my dominion of sheep-like students with an iron fist. I practiced this so well on my siblings that I'm mildly surprised that I haven't yet become the subject of a Mommie Dearest book thus far.

Playing school was fun. Whereas real school was only good for hanging out with buddies and taking home (if it didn't tragically get lost on the way) far more homework than was absolutely necessary, pretend school put me in the position of being the evil teacher. I heaped tons of homework on my siblings students, and they, in turn, heaped scorn and derision in my general direction.

It seems different now, somehow. When the Woodyettes play school, they take turns being teacher and student. Also, I notice that whomever is portraying the teacher always tries to make it fun for the student. None of this squares with my own experiences growing up through approximately ninety-seven years of public education. I mostly hated (or, at least, failed to appreciate) my teachers, and they seemed to hold no love for me. That could have something to do with having an almost physiological need to avoid them at all costs, but that's just speculation on my part.

No, the Woodyettes seem to be making the statement that school, for them, is an enjoyable part of their young lives. The rules really are an attempt at self-policing, by the way. They both know that rules are important. They help to keep the playing field level, which is a good thing; these girls tend to get a little competitive (in the sense that a tsunami tends to get people a little wet), and they like knowing that they can occasionally wave the rules under each other's noses.

I have to admit, however, that the one about "no bully's" was the one that got my attention. I have to wonder where that one came from. It could have been that one girl was ignoring the other one rather than devoting all of her waking attention to her sister's every need. "You're mean!" is a complaint we hear just a tad too frequently in this school. It always takes a fair amount of persuasion on the part of teachers and administrators here at the Academy (read: Mom and Dad) to convince them that Sister isn't being mean, Honey. Sister just wants to do something different right this minute. "But she never plays when I want her to!" will be the next phrase we hear. Never mind that the two of them were just five minutes ago playing together so well that their principal threatened to send them both to military school if they didn't for heaven's sake SETTLE DOWN!

I should also note that the rule of the week ("no bully's") was pasted directly over the previous rule of the week, which was "no swearing."

I don't even want to know what that was all about.