Bedtime Story #24
Once upon a time there was this little girl named Rory. She was born with a chip on her shoulder. The chip was so large that her Grandpa would tell her, “I love you, but if you don’t eat that chip on your shoulder it’s going to get so big it’ll stunt your growth!”
“What does that even mean, Papa?!” She would cry as she stormed off to sit in the shadow of her tree angry at the world. Boy, she would sit under the shadow of that tree with the deepest, meanest frown. See, what Papa didn’t understand was that Rory was mad. Mad that she didn’t have a dad. Mad that she wasn’t tall enough to see most things that everyone else could see. Mad that she didn’t have any brothers and sisters like her cousins. Mad that she didn’t know enough words to communicate what she was feeling. And she often found herself frustrated. Because she was just ‘”so misunderstood!”
Rory’s Mom saw her frustration, and not knowing Rory’s inner thoughts, would say, “I love you, Rory, be patient with yourself! You are, after all, only 2. Your words will come.”
Oh but Rory was just so wound up that that chip on her shoulder did begin to grow larger and larger taking up all her energy to have the patience to learn her words. And the idea of the chip stunting her growth like her Papa had told her just made her even more furious. And the fact that she couldn’t communicate any of her feelings just filled her with fraught. It’s just that, yeah, everyone said they loved her…but how could they love her if they didn’t understand her?
So she’d mope. And drag her feet. Because the chip on her shoulder was so heavy. And she’d sit in the shadow of the tree and be in great upset.
One day her Mom finally said to her, “You know, Rory, the quickest way to feel love is to spread love.”
At first Rory was confused. Was this another Papa-like thing to say? She didn’t know.
One day Rory was moping, dragging her feet on her way to sit in the shadow of her tree when she ran smack right into a little boy named Benji who was also moping and dragging his feet. As they both rustled back to standing they wanted to say so much like “Hey! Watch where you’re walking!” or “Ouch! That hurt!” or “Err! Sorry about that, I was lost in thought.” or “This chip is so heavy!” But instead, they just looked at each other, exhausted by their own mopings, and said: I’m sorry.
And then they hugged.
Then Rory went her way and Benji went his way. But Rory walked away a little different. A little lighter. The hug made her feel good.
So instead of heading to sit in the shadow of her tree she set off to see whom else she could hug. She hugged everybody she saw that day. She felt so good and wondered if this is what her Mom meant when she said “the quickest way to feel love is to spread love.” She decided, yes, this is, in fact, what her Mom meant.
So the next day she hugged everyone she saw including the people she hugged the day before so those people wouldn’t forget they were loved. And the next day she hugged even more people including all the people from the day before and the day before that (you know, so they wouldn’t forget they were loved). She went on like this for days. And as everyday passed, every hug hugged, little by little she forgot about that chip on her shoulder. She found that most people’s knees were actually a pretty good hugging point. She didn’t long for a bigger family anymore, because she realized, she already had a big family. And all these people she was hugging, they began to become like her family. And she was so happy.
Until the end of one day she was all hugged out. She was tired. There weren’t enough hours in the day to hug new people and all the people she had already hugged (you know, to remind them that they’re loved). She began to think, “Well if I’m going to hug more new people then I’m going to have to stop hugging some of the people I’ve already hugged. But that’s not fair. And I could just keep hugging only the people that I’ve already hugged, but what about all those people that will never get a hug?” Oh she began to mope. And drag her feet. Only to find herself sitting under the shadow of her tree wearing a frown. Weighted with fraught. She was distraught again. The chip on her shoulder reappeared and felt even heavier this time.
“Why are you so sad, Rory?” her Mom asked as she came and joined her in the shadow of her tree. Her Mom took a blanket out of her bag and wrapped it around Rory.
“Oh Mom, I can’t hug everybody!” she shrugged and sighed as the chip on her shoulders crackled, “And I don’t even care if I don’t grow taller!”
Rory’s Mom’s eyes swelled with tears as she looked at her and realized her daughter had learned empathy and in her little 2 years she felt a responsibility to others. She had learned how to love others. And with that her Mom took some French onion dip out of her bag and gave it to Rory. “This is from your Papa for all those chips you have. We love you. You’re going to be fine.”
“What does that even mean?!” She thought to herself as her Mom walked off. “Err, nobody understands me,” she grunted.
For days and days there were no hugs given out by Rory. She felt defeated. She just sat in the shadow of her tree with her chips on her shoulder and her dip. She moped.
One day while she sat in the shadow of her tree this boy came skipping towards her. He looked familiar. It was the little boy she first hugged. That little boy Benji.
“Rory!” he said as he came to sit by her, “I’ve been looking for you!” He noticed she was moping. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t hug everyone. What’s the point?” she sulked.
Benji looked at her for a moment. He pointed at her and said simply, “Rory,” and then pointed at himself, “hugs Benji,” then pointed at himself again, “then Benji hugs her,” as he pointed to a girl passing by, “and him,” as he pointed to a boy passing by, “and her,” as he pointed to another little girl.
Rory suddenly realized she didn’t have to hug everybody in the world. But that by hugging one person they would go and out and hug another person. Rory began to feel light again. And was inspired to go out and get back to hugging. Benji was pretty excited to go out and do some hugging too. But before they did they sat together in the shadow of that tree and ate away all those chips on Rory’s shoulder with the French onion dip that her Mom had left her and she thought, “Oh I understand you now, Papa.”
Arianna Basco (@ladybasco) is the author of Palms Up, which features letters from a mother to her unborn child during the nine months of pregnancy.