Monday, July 31, 2006

Militant Reading

image from

I wish I had the words to describe the pleasure I am getting from my reading lately. I’m falling on my books with a single minded passion, wanting only to devour them faster and faster. I am reading while walking Madam in the stroller (as long as I can stay away from traffic), reading while I nurse her, reading while she crawls around the floor and babbles. I can’t seem to make myself do anything else during my free time. My boxes remain unpacked. My errands remain un-run.

TEG calls it militant reading.

I suppose part of it is sheer relief, and ego. Sheer relief that the molasses of those early months of motherhood is finally thinning and loosening its hold on my mind, and I can concentrate again. In those months, I was so sleep deprived and depressed that I think I would have broken down in tears if you had shown me a book. Now, the mist has lifted. I can think, and let me tell you, it’s like getting my sight back, or my sense of taste. I missed living in my own mind.

The darker side of that is ego. I have, shall we say, issues about being seen as "only a stay at home mother." Why should people presume that I don’t have a wit in my head because I spend most of my day fishing things out of Madam’s mouth and singing "Wheels on the Bus"? So it’s very important to prove, if only to myself, that I am still the smart, interesting person that I was prior to giving birth.

But (you knew there was a but, didn’t you...?) there’s a deeper reason than those.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the act of reading. Books have always been the mirror that reflected me to me. I have spent years losing myself again and again in the troubled and exciting lives of characters in novels. I have spent years following the triumphant march of Fact in nonfiction. When I was younger, I read indiscriminately, voraciously...anything that looked interesting, or that was recommended or mentioned by someone or something else that snared my imagination.

It was a happy time.

Then I started college, and reading became fraught with issues of self-esteem and fear and judgment. As an English major, I was expected to have some sort of an innate love for the "classics" and a disdain for "trash". Sometimes that was true, but often I had to pretend. For the first time, I treated books as being outside of me, objects to be dissected and mastered, instead of entered into and loved. Reading also became political. Apparently, I should stop loving those Dead White Males who had shaped much of my early literary experience, because they weren’t writing for people like me. This made me feel unmoored, dislocated.

Post college wasn’t much better. Working at Big Publishing Houses, books were currency, titles thrown around to show how educated you were, how fit to walk the hallowed hallways of the Mecca of Publishing. I felt incredibly behind, like I had wasted years reading books that were being deemed useless by the people around I had invested in a company that was declared bankrupt.

I spent those years lamenting the reading I hadn’t done. I spent those years afraid to tackle those Big Classic Books, afraid that they would expose me to myself (mirrors, again) and that I wouldn’t understand them, would have to face the fact that I was an intellectual fraud. I had a suspicion that the books would hold themselves aloof from me, that the authors "wouldn’t like me, if they knew me." Yes, that’s a direct quote. Poor TEG.

After I left publishing, I wandered around in underemployment and confusion. TEG and I moved on average once a year. I didn’t have a career, just a series of jobs. I had plenty of time and mental energy to read those books that had made me feel so inferior earlier, but, well...I STILL felt inferior. I still wasn’t ready. Not having a career made me feel naked in a room of people wearing suits. If I could have laminated my diploma and thesis and worn them around my neck, I probably would have done it. My mind was like walls closing, defensiveness and ignorance running around and around in the narrow space.

Then came Madam. And with her arrival, a flood of authorly desire was unleashed. I had spent years denying that I COULD be a writer, in part because of these books that hadn’t been a part of my education. But...I wasn’t in school anymore. If I was going to read them, it would have to be self-motivated. If I didn’t understand, I would have to dig deep and find the answers myself. And maybe they WOULD be too difficult for me to understand, maybe they WOULD be written in some code for genii. But something curious happened. Reading stopped being this badge of belonging that I could flash to the cognoscenti. It started to feel urgent, interior, almost secret. If I failed, no one needed to know. And hey, if I could give birth, surely I could pick up a novel by William Faulkner! So thanks to the wonderful library here, I started to tackle those fearsome authors. Woolf, Didion, Updike, Morrison, Walker.

And in my reading, I’ve found myself arguing with the authors, engaging them in my own life, pondering their secrets. I feel like I am learning to read like a writer, finally—like I am shaking hands with them across the span of the page, and the span of lifetimes. I can look past their mystique, the unassailable genius of their work, and see the effort, the humanity. Like my poem below, I am seeing them more and more as Letos, instead of almighty Zeuses giving birth from their heads.

And I am seeing that my own life, my own words, can grow and ripen and matter someday, as well. That I can plunge my hands into the messy, bloody chaos of language and image and fashion them into something beautiful, someday.

To put it simply, I am learning to read for mentors, to find encouraging voices for my own dreams. And every beautiful book I read, with phrases so heady and gorgeous they make me dizzy, is another hand up, another writer cheering me on and saying that they’ll see me on the other side.

It’s not militant reading. It’s my people, meeting me book by book.

Continue reading...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday Scribblings-Two Cents

First of all, it’s never just two cents. You know that, I know that. If I could assign a more accurate dollar amount to all of the opinions, criticisms, hints, and “no offense, but...”s that I hear masquerading as someone’s two cents, I’d be able to afford that dream of all tired mommies, a qualified nanny.

I come from a long line of critical people—people relentlessly dedicated to improving the universe, one pointed opinion at a time. No one gets more of their loving tractor beam than the family. And, like other things that roll downhill or float downstream, most of it ends up on me, the baby of the family.

To be fair (which is more than they usually are, but I digress...), there is a certain air of vulnerability around me. A close friend once referred to me as a “wounded gazelle”—I suppose because I always seem to be acutely aware of how difficult things can be, and sometimes I just don’t feel up to the task. This has always irritated my family to no end...why should things be so hard for me? I think I developed a bit of an inferiority complex to compensate for the rest of my family’s swaggering assurance. They assumed that things would always work out by sheer force of their personalities. They were perfectly happy to bully the world into falling under their dominion, if necessary.

I never quite had their confidence. I saw the potential pitfalls, the dark edges, the instability, the uncertainty. Maybe I had to do so, to prepare them for those moments when I wouldn’t succeed the way they all assumed I would.

So this worries them, and leads them to conclude that if only they could GUIDE me towards a better way of thinking, I would grow into my destiny as a highly successful person.

But I need to be honest...I have always gravitated towards books, experts, theorists, people who would give my ideas heft, and whose thoughts were more valuable than mine. I married TEG, in part, because his strength of mind borders on arrogance...and I like that. So it makes sense that my family, the people who know me best (ostensibly) would be first in the long line of people I have allowed to have say-so over my life. Basically, anyone could step right up and be the boss of me. Everyone, of course, except me.

Hence, the two cents.

These innocuous little comments pepper every single conversation I have with my parents.

If only I would move to their city, get a job, go to graduate school, lose 15 pounds, let Madam cry, follow that new parenting technique they saw on Univision, be more confident, stop looking on the dark side, grow my hair, realize I can do anything I set my mind to, get firm with Madam, get firm with my inlaws, get firm with everyone but them...

Or they leisurely remind me of all of the opportunities that have faded away...

Mami: You went to such a good expensive! You could have done anything after that...oh well...I guess you don’t need so much education to stay home with Madam, right? You were so young waited too long to have a much time gone! And you didn’t even get a graduate degree!

When their voices are (temporarily) silent, then the internal two cents start. And so often, that voice is repeating exactly what my family tells me, guiding their words deep into the soft underbelly of my secret fears. But the voice has an advantage they don’ can prey upon my weaknesses with precision.

And so the two copper Lincolns work as little scalpels, scraping away my already-fragile self-confidence.

And all too often, the two cents are coming from me. Second guessing my instincts to the point where I can’t feel them anymore. Re-interpreting my decisions in the worst possible way. Waiting to fail so I can gloat at myself.

Ultimately, it’s two things, over and over again. You can’t take care of yourself. And now you have to take care of a helpless little person...someone you can’t fail. Someone you can’t change your mind about. Everything is life or death.

But...what if it isn’t? What if all of this doubt is just “hate hating through me”, like I read in a book recently? What if taking care of myself is a process I need to learn all the time, not something that can be trapped like a butterfly into one moment in my history?

I’ve already begun talking back to my family...trying to show them that honest ambivalence is not always a weakness, that admitting difficulty does not automatically assume failure.

Having a blog, though, has shown me that not all comments have to be negative ones. I look forward to all of your opinions and two cents...but maybe that's the sunny side of the same penny? The truth is...I want someone to tell me that I am on the right path...I want someone to tell me what to do, so that I don't have to risk failing at something I really want. I look forward to your good opinion so that I can talk back to that Voice inside my own head, with proof this time.

But I need to supply my own proof, don't I?
I need to appreciate comments and advice and applause and yes, even criticism, without losing sight of my own beliefs, without being deaf to my own voice.

I need to stop giving my authority away to anyone with an opinion and a couple of coins to rub together.

It’s finally time to talk back to that Voice inside my head, and tell her that she needs to pay me a lot more than two cents for each of her so-called “insights” into all of my mistakes.

I should be able to afford therapy in no time. Or a nanny.

Or earplugs.

For more two cents, go here.


Continue reading...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sunday Scribblings--Thief (Stolen Goods), a fiction

"A thief at nine saves time." That’s what Tio Pepe said in his always-groggy voice. I thought he was talking to me...or about me. After all, I was the only nine year old in the room.

"What? I should steal? That saves time?" I asked him quickly, trying to get him to answer before he fell back to sleep. He muttered something and leaned back on the couch, the plastic cover crushing the velvet my mother always tried to protect.

She stood in the kitchen doorway, wiping her hands on a Bounty. "Oh, he means 'A stitch in time saves nine.' He’s always mixing those old sayings up."

But it still had my age mixed in there, and honestly, it made more sense the way Tio Pepe said it. Mami always made fun of me when I tried to puzzle out his half-finished phrases. She said he was sleeping off the effects of too much aquardiente. I used to imagine that fire water rushing down his throat, like the rapids I saw on Channel 13 once. Or sometimes I used to imagine his soul like a little missionary in the jungle of his insides, being boiled by natives drenching him in aquardiente. When I told Mami this, she shook her head until her blonde ponytail whipped her cheek. "Don’t lie, Carmen. It’s like stealing the truth from the other person. It’s like stolen goods."

But I didn’t REALLY believe that stuff, though...I just liked to imagine it. If anything, I had the opposite problem...I HAD to tell the truth. Couldn’t keep a secret to save my life. It was like the time I bit down on a chili pepper and electric sparks flew into my mouth. My Daddy told me to keep it inside, that it was bad manners to spit it out, but I couldn’t help myself. A secret feels just like that.

It didn’t seem strange that Tio Pepe was sleeping on the couch while Mami made breakfast. It didn’t seem strange that Daddy was already out, at the store. This was the way things were in our house then...tios and tias sweeping in and out like dusty leaves, with Mami making café and leche for them and medianoche sandwiches, and them confessing stories to her as they ate. I think they liked to talk to Mami because she was a little outside of them...not Cuban, like them, not even Latina. So she could be trusted to hold onto their secrets until they needed them again. And Mami liked to keep them...she liked to be at the center of things, and belong.

Usually, they didn’t even notice me huddled in the corner of the kitchen, scratching off the fake wood paint off the table leg or using my Barbie’s blonde hair (just like Mami’s) to sweep the floor around me.

Once I got to the playground, I used to tell the other kids the stories I heard in the kitchen. I don’t know why they never believed me, but they always liked to listen. That was lucky for me, because they never really told the grown ups what they heard from me, and I never got in trouble. I told you, I was terrible at keeping my mouth shut.

This morning, Mami was adjusting her transitor radio, jiggling the knob past the whine of the static until she got a clear song. Love will keep us together by Captain and favorite song that summer I turned nine. I sang along with my mother’s back as she stood elbow deep in dishes and water.

Daddy burst in and kissed me, dropped his hat on the table. He stared at Mami for a minute, all quiet like he was wondering something. His white t-shirt was a little too tight, just how he liked it. Mami used to wash them in boiling hot water to make sure they looked just like they could barely contain all of Daddy.

After a minute (might have been shorter, but that's how it felt), he cleared his throat. To my mother’s back he said, " know what I hear at the store today?" "Heard" Mami corrected, automatically. Daddy rolled his eyes at me--he hated when Mami corrected him, hated that her English was native...but he hated it more when she didn’t, and he made a mistake in front of the people who looked up to him.

"So I heard," he said, giving the word a heaviness that was like stamping his foot, "that Marta is coming here for a few weeks to visit her sister in law. Remember her?"

She didn’t react, not right away. Just kept washing and humming Love will keep us together. Then she turned around, bubbles still near her wrist and said, "Yeah?" But it didn't sound curious. It didn't sound like any tone I'd heard from her before.

I knew I should leave them alone, so I slid out of the room before I was asked, so I could linger on the other side of the doorway.

"Why you always tense up when I mention her?" He asked in a way that told me he already knew the answer. I waited for Mami to correct him, but she didn’t.

"Why you always bring her up?" she said, sounding like him.

"What’s the big deal? It’s the past. Past is past."

"Then leave her there. Stop reminding me of it."

"What reminder? I just bring her up now!"

"That’s what you think." She sounded tired. "I know what everyone says...that I stole you from her. That I’m an Americana thief."

"Nah...they know. They know I needed to stay. They know what happened."

I think he was trying to make her feel better, and he reached out to flick her apron, but I could see her flinch away from his hand. "I really wish you hadn’t said that."

And with that, she walked out of the room.

I spent years after that, playing that conversation over and over in my mind. So short, small words, and the meaning always seemed to be off to one side, moving away from me. Everything changed, but nothing changed. It was like the kitchen floor was cracked, and we had to walk around it and around it until we couldn't anymore. We had to pick a side. But it wasn't whole anymore.

That was the summer I became a thief--saving time, just like Tio Pepe prophesied, because just like everyone around me, I would have become one eventually. That was the summer I stopped keeping my time in the kitchen, learned to keep quiet and my stories inside my mouth.

Because that was the summer I learned something about stolen goods. Sometimes you can’t get rid of them. Sometimes you can’t give them back.

To steal more Sunday Scribblings, go here.


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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Growing up

Strength from thr Rider-White Tarot Deck

I’ve managed to avoid my computer for over a week, telling myself that I was on vacation, that I was celebrating my daughter’s birthday and seeing my family again.

But in truth, I was just getting rusty. Rusty and cranky. So this entry may be disjointed, may make no sense. So be it. I need to turn the wheel somehow, need to enter this space again.

During this self-imposed computer and blog fast, I have been reading a lot. Reading books chosen on a whim, at random, but that all seem related and giving me the same message.

I found myself slipping back into old patterns this week, around my family and my in laws. I was so anxious to please them, so quick to agree, to smile even when I didn’t feel like doing it. I became subservient, the eternal little sister, youngest daughter.

It occurs to me that I am tired of feeling that way. Of being that way. But I am not sure how to change it.

What does it mean to be a grown up woman? For years, I resisted the idea of becoming a grown up, equating it with a life of nittygrit, setting tables and making dinners and paying the mortgage and changing diapers. My passion for literature would have to be put away and I would have to be consumed with "real life."

And now I do all of those things, but I still don’t feel like a grown up. I still feel like I am masquerading in this role, like I need to apologize for being me, for taking up people’s time, for taking up space. I speak in a hushed, high voice, begging for a scrap of approval. I lie and sneak around my house like a child, afraid of being punished or accused of "wasting time" with my writing and my reading. I am tentative. I have no authority.

This is not what I want to model to my daughter.

One of the books I just finished reading, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, calls this being a daughter in your mind—unable to step into a central role in your own life. To take yourself seriously. When I read that, something inside me went "click." I don’t make myself central to my own life, and so I revolve around everyone else and what they will think. My parents. TEG. I don’t win a lot of arguments around here because I can never seem to convince myself, or anyone else, that what I want is worth having. That my ideas have value.

So I give in, because I don’t make the money, because my parents are older, because I should respect my in laws, because I am afraid of taking on the responsibility of sticking to my ideals—what if I am wrong?

So I give in, and then I seethe, dream about grabbing Madam and escaping to a place where no one knows that I used to be dutiful, that I used to look wistfully at people doing the most ordinary things—living alone, getting tattoos, going back to school—and feel completely ineffectual and inept.

But of course I don’t do that.

So the question remains—how to be a grown up woman?

Lately, I have been looking for mentors—women writers who have managed to produce work and live creatively even with small children. I discovered a book called The Writer at Her Work and have been devouring the encouraging essays by such writers as Joan Didion and Anne Tyler. And yes, some of them have children and talk about the ways that being mothers helped and hindered their process. But I was struck by something else in their voices—a certain clear-eyed confidence in the power of their own minds, in the value of their own thoughts. Many of them were around my age when they were first published, or when they wrote the essays in the book. These women were, are, clearly adults—clearly in control. Clearly equals in their own relationships, in their own lives.

Reading them, absorbing their voices, shook me. I’m 33, and a mother, and I can’t claim the same power over my own life. And I’m angry. I’m angry at TEG for his often-cutting belittling comments. I’m angry with my parents for discounting all of my accomplishments and focusing on my failures. I’m angry with my siblings for bossing me around even now and trying to keep me in my place as their little sister. But most of all, I am angry with myself for arresting my own development—for avoiding responsibility and power and strength and adulthood for so long. And for trying to please everyone and smile and sidle along inoffensively, even when I know that I can think. I can lead. I can write.

I am tired of insincerity, of my endless givens, of begging for scraps from the grown up table. I am tired of being secondary, subservient, and overlooked. I feel as though I need to finally feel strong and be strong in order to really come into my creative voice—to be able to withstand criticism and ridicule.

Forget my inner child. I am discovering that in order to be a writer, I need to become a grown up. A woman.

Continue reading...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

To Madam, on her first birthday

(I am away from home and my computer, so alas, I will be very late for Sunday Scribblings! But I wanted to post something for Madam's first birthday tomorrow. Hope you are all doing well--I miss you!)

Dearest Madam,

I hesitated to write this, because so many have done it and so well. Who am I to add my voice to that song, and so late? Could I give form to all of the experiences and wonder and love and pain that have occurred this year, your first?

But our story begins before this, doesn't it? Our birth (for it was our birth, both yours and mine) was merely a physical meeting-we'd spent hours together before that, discovering each other's quirks and dislikes. You found out about my love of chocolate ice cream and French fries (though thankfully for you, not together). I discovered your love for taking a long afternoon walk in the sunshine. I would balance my book precariously on my rounded belly; you would swim by and playfully kick it off. Not wanting to share my attention even then.

I am sorry, dearest, for your bumpy arrival into this world. I had a fever, was exhausted, ill. I passed it on to you, landing you in the NICU for eleven days of blankness--we'd had you for only a second, and then you were whisked away to another hospital. Dazed, I pumped rhythmically every three hours, obsessed with the magic healing powers of breastmilk.

In hindsight, I needed to feel I was doing something.

I grew ill, again, hospital, again. I babbled incoherently about going to Las Vegas--we'd driven through there on our westward trek to California. I tried to pump while thinking beatific thoughts about you--then gave up and watched MTV and read books.

That categorizes a lot of my experience of motherhood.

You've given a shape to my life, sweet--me, who used to disdain routine!

You wake in the morning, teetering on your hands and knees, an uncertain smile grows wide as you catch me pretending to sleep. You're awake, Mommy! You're awake, Daddy! Impish with triumph, you sidle closer to my side, balance yourself and stand, already babbling away. We start our ritual of coffee--you crawling around saying hello to your toys while I scribble my morning pages. On occasion, you stop and crawl over, staring quizzically at me, pulling at my pen and tapping my paper. Your matter of fact acceptance of having a mother who writes makes me feel real, like, well, a mother who writes.

This, too, is our pattern--I flail about wildly, looking for rescue, and you stare serenely at me, eyes full of innocent confidence It's my job to figure it out. I'm the Mommy--so I draw from some secret well of adulthood and manage. All for you.

It hasn't all been easy--in fact, most of it hasn't. Hours of forced silent meditation in the night, nursing and rocking and walking you to sleep--unable to flee, to seek distraction--forced to look deep into myself and not liking what I see. Having stories, words, phrases come and fade for want of a pen and paper. Boredom turning to exhaustion turning to resentment turning to fear turning back to boredom.

But I've learned to hold onto the words as tenaciously as you hold on to your rings; learned to write in my head even as I change diapers and sing lullabies and play games and make lunches. You've called on my desires even as you call my milk to you, my body wanting only to nourish and please you. My mind wanting only to be worthy of you.

To say that I love you feels trite, inadequate--so I fumble along, with only images to guide me--your lightning smile, dimples. Your furrowed brows as you puzzle something out. Your attempts to crawl, to stand, to walk, again and again until you can do it. Our walks ogether in the sun--first, one state, then the other city, as you jabber happily to the trees and the doggies and to me. The shadows of the trees fall over your face, like clouds racing in front of the moon. Your body curled against mine like a question mark--but you, yourself, as the answer.

I want to be enough for you. I want you to be proud of me. Those simple desires have pulled me through this turbulent first year.

TEG says, "Only you would try to do something new and scary during this hardest year of your life." But it couldn't have been any other way. Having you had woken me up, like the old fairy tale of Talia and her twins. You have connected me to the largenesss and wildness and fragility and beauty of this world.

Thank you for the privilege of watching you sleep, watching you play, watching you grow. My gratitude never ceases and never will.

So that is why I can write this, in spite of so many other beautiful and creative voices. Because you look for me, for my voice, in all of the world. And I do the same for you. And those facts give me the courage to add my own small voice to the rest of the song. I can write because I am your mommy. Te adoro. Happy birthday.

Your mother.


Continue reading...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sunday Scribblings-Two peas in a pod

(sorry in advance for the length!)

Once upon a time, in a land circled by magic seas, there lived a wise Matron Queen. After much spellcasting and praying and working in her youth, she was finally big with child. As her belly grew rounded and heavy, it brought with it an unexpected gift. The Queen experienced strong cravings throughout her time, and these cravings enabled her to foretell the future. Soon the word traveled far and wide, as these things often do, and the kingdom was crowded with villagers and merchants and the royalty from lands near and far, standing patiently at the palace door with the most delectable treats to tempt her—chocolate from Africa and wine from France (for wine in this land would not hurt the babe) and apples from windblown orchards east of the Moon. Anything to provoke the Queen into a craving, and thus get a glimpse of what was to come. After all, there were wars raging in the land, and anxious business dealings, and students quailing as they waited for midterm grades.

“Go to the east!” she would command while in her trance. “Don’t sell the farm!” to another. “Study harder in your math class next time,” to a third.

But of course, as any expectant mother would tell you, such powerful cravings cannot be predicted or controlled, and sometimes they come when no one is looking.

Such a desire overcame the Queen one fine summer morning, as she turned her ponderous body gingerly in bed, so as not to hurt the babe or disturb the King. She wanted peas…fresh, tender green peas in the pod. She wanted to pull them out of the pod herself and scatter them in a salad of field greens, crunchy and still moist with morning dew. The very image made her head pound and her blood race, and soon she padded down the hall to the Royal Kitchen.

The kitchen wenches were still sleeping, and the Queen took care not to wake them, as no doubt they would want to shell the peas themselves for her. And kitchen wenches have many friends. Before long her door would be crowded with avid spectators, waiting to see what grand prophecy would come from this craving.

She didn’t want to be bothered.

Soon, she settled down on the floor with a basket of peas in the pod, and hummed a quiet little tune as she shelled them. But the craving was only growing in intensity, even as she popped the peas in her mouth with abandon. She found herself growing frightened. Was she being punished for something? What if she spent the rest of her pregnancy longing for something and never being satisfied? That would probably be terrible for the babe.

But before long, as the mists of the morning burned away, she found the object of her quest. A perfect little pod, buried at the bottom of the basket, with two peas that looked like luminous green pearls inside. She dug her pudgy finger into the pod, and as she did so, they each rolled away.


Her cry woke the couriers and the wenches and the King himself, as they all ran into the kitchen to see the Queen pull up her frock and run past them as she chased…what?

“Don’t let them get away!” she shouted over her shoulder. “I must have those peas!”

And everyone ran and searched…in closets, under the carpet, in riverbanks. By now, many were thinking, privately, that the peas would be squashed, ruined, but who wanted to argue with the Queen in that state? She could not be appeased, even with chocolate and apples and tempting Champagne. She wanted THOSE PEAS!

But the peas had disappeared.

And so had her power to see the future.

In time, the Queen learned to live with the disappointment of losing the Peas and her power. She assumed that such things happened to women as their months passed by. Her power had ebbed, and with it, her energy. She spent the rest of her pregnancy in bed.

As the summer passed into fall, the Queen gave birth to two beautiful baby girls—twins! The kingdom quipped that she who could see the future had missed what was growing in her own body. But they didn’t make that joke around her, especially in the early months of sleep deprivation.

The Queen learned to live with the new emptiness inside of her body, and if she still dreamt of those delectable peas as they rolled away with her fortunetelling power…well, she never said.

The girls grew into beautiful maidens, bright and as a graceful as wind chimes dancing in the breeze.

But they each had a secret.

Penelope, the eldest by two minutes, loved to steal away to the field where the knights trained. She wanted nothing more out of life than to learn to sit a horse properly, how to joust and parry. As the knights told tall tales around the fire, she longed to join them on their journeys and adventures. But how to convince her parents of this? To them, she and her sister were the center of the world, hard won. There was no way they would risk her life and safety on foolhardy grail quests.

Phillipa, the youngest daughter, could almost always be found strolling the grounds with one of the monks from the nearby monastery. She was fascinated by their work of copying great manuscripts so that everyone would have access to their wisdom forever. The friendly youngest monk began smuggling texts to her, so that she could help with their endeavor, as she had the loveliest script in the land.

The sisters talked often about how to break it to their parents that they didn’t want the life of a princess, didn’t want to marry princes and rule over faraway kingdoms. They just wanted to be left alone to do their work.

But their parents wanted the twins to have the future that was theirs by birthright--a future identical to every other Princess in every other fairy tale.

One day, as they were swimming in a stream on the edge of the kingdom, they saw two litle objects half buried in a mud bank.

Two peas, curled around themselves like green beginnings. So alike and yet completely different.

Of course, Penelope and Phillipa knew of the famous peas, and they had no doubt they had found them here. Each daughter washed a pea and held it aloft to dry in the sun. They would make fine presents for their mother.

It was the Queen’s 50th birthday celebration, and she couldn’t quite stem a sense of uneasiness. Something was disturbing her little kingdom, that she knew…but what? She ignored the images flashing green through her brain, because after all, she couldn’t see into the future now, any more than you or I can.

A trumpet herald sounded in the Great Hall, and the two lovely twins entered the ball, each holding a velvet pillow. On each the pillow rested…a green pea. There was no doubt about it. No peas had ever quite resembled these peas had ever quite taken their place.

The assembly gasped, and the Queen leapt from the throne and hugged her daughters, weeping with joy.

“Of course, now, you will go study with the Knights!” She proclaimed to the stunned Penelope.

“And you, dearest little Phil, we shall build you a library so that you can have a grand setting for your illuminated texts!” Phillipa squealed with joy before she remembered that maybe scholars should be more dignified.

For the Queen had known all along about her daughters and their unusual dreams…but without the peas, had doubted.

She would doubt no more.

The dancing went on well into the night, and the Queen shared many visions of the future with her guests. Her gift had returned, full force and forever.

The twins, being dutiful girls, did exactly as their mother said and thrived with joy.

And the peas still live in a glass case, on separate jewelled cushions, eternally green and eternally tempting.

More peas grow here


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