Friday, January 4, 2008

The Changling

(Adapted from another "Elf Story" from the Brothers Grimm--third story on this link)

Donna loved her son. Really she did. But lately, just lately, she….found it hard to use the L word. She fantasized…..escape. Away from him, somehow….away.

What had happened to Adam? This was much more than the “terrible twos.” He bit her, screamed at her—and these were his good days. The bad days? No. Donna never admitted what really happened behind closed doors. Not to her best friend. Not to her co-workers. Not that she had co-workers. Donna had been forced to quit her job. No sitters could stand to be with the boy.

It hadn’t always been that way. Six months ago, at 18 months, he was still a charmer. And then? Suddenly the love of flinging, and fighting, and feces.

But the disgusting surfaces and bodies covered in brown were not the most disturbing change. Donna was most horrified by how she felt about her son. She never admitted her hateful thoughts—even to herself.

She was convinced he would grow out of it. But as the months wore on, Adam’s aggression only intensified. He destroyed entire rooms of furniture. He devoured a refrigerator full of food, then threw it up and….. Donna forced it out of her mind. Then, one day, Wendy, a neighbor, heard screams and came to the back porch. Donna stood in the wreckage. Her secret was revealed.

After helping clean up, and soothing Adam with huge mugs of chamomile and honey, Wendy offered advice.

“I had the same problem with little Tim, believe it or not.”

Wendy did not believe it.

“Remember Bonnie, next door to me? She was a midwife, and a teacher, and a Reiki master, and I don’t know what else. She told me what to do. Come here.”

They moved out of earshot of Adam, who had fallen asleep on the floor, clutching a large soiled blanket.

Wendy continued. “You have to buy a child’s chemistry set. Then find a glass ornament, or glass egg. Find a way to balance the egg on top of the burner and then, boil water in the egg. Show Adam the boiling water. He’ll laugh. It worked for me.”

Was Wendy crazy? Or simply baiting her? Donna tried to smile and looked at her neighbor who was gazing benevolently at her.

And, maybe because she was so tired, Donna heard herself say, “Do you still have your chemistry set? Could I borrow it?”

Wendy’s smile vanished. “No! No! The chemistry set is the key and Tim… No! I’m sorry! You can find one online or even at a resale shop.” She looked at Adam. “I’d do it as soon as possible.”

Wendy rushed away, now suddenly afraid of losing her own way. And Donna, in a rare moment of quiet, took Adam into the car and ran to the toy store.

He woke up surrounded by a tower of boxes. Donna was searching for a certain glass globe. Where was it!?

“Please honey, be careful with those.”

“Santa coming?”

“Not quite, yet, honey, but soon… You like these ornaments?”

Adam’s eyes were aglow. He had never been so near these dainty pieces. He gently clasped an heirloom glass-Santa, from Donna’s childhood. He shrieked with pleasure.

“That’s from Nana. Isn’t it pretty?”

They looked through the boxes all afternoon, and Donna told stories of Christmases past. Adam didn’t comprehend the words but he understood the gist—both through her smile and the lilt in her voice. They laughed together that day, and many future days after that, when mother and son looked for the glass globe somewhere hidden between lights and tinsel.

©Lewis-Barr 2008

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