When the gods wish to punish us
“Once upon a time,” I begin my story, “there lived a little princess named Alexandra in a kingdom far, far away.”
My three little girls lie in bed in the dark, hanging on every word. The night light glows like a tiny campfire.
Every night, before they fall asleep, I tell them a story comprised of elements they ask me to include. The princess is an element of the story requested by my six-year-old, Avery.
“Alexandra was an only child, and she was very lonely. Her father, the king, was a gruff man who was away often. Her mother had secluded herself in her room when she lost a child during birth. When Alexandra was ten years old, her mother died of a broken heart. The distance between Alexandra and her father grew.
“Alexandra was raised by an old maid who didn’t like children.
“One day Alexandra was playing alone by the old, moss-covered brick wall in the garden when she found an ancient lamp.
“Knowing the old tales of genies in lamps, she rubbed the lamp. Sure enough, a purple genie popped out.”
The genie lamp enters the story at the request of eight-year-old Libby.
“The genie told her she could have an unlimited number of wishes. She could make a wish at any time and it would come true. But he warned her that she could not reverse any wish, nor could she cancel the consequences of any wishes.
“The first thing she wished for was a tiny little bug that had a light on its bum like a flashlight. And it could talk. And it had rainbow wings.”
Four-year-old, curly-haired Laela giggles from the top of the bunk bed and proclaims, “That’s mine.”
“Next, she wished she had a brother and a sister. *POOF* A brother and a sister appeared.
“But her brother was mean and her sister was selfish. She was even lonelier than before.”
The sound of thumb-sucking punctuates the breaks between sentences.
“So she wished they would have to go to boarding school. They were sent away the next day. But they caught a deadly sickness while they were there. When they came home, Alexandra got their sickness. It made her poop and puke her guts out for three weeks. And her farts smelled really bad.”
It’s a cheap tactic, but it works every time. The girls snigger and I smile in the dark.
“So then she wished she was older and married. *POOF* She was standing in the kitchen of a tiny hut washing dishes while her husband sat watching her with his feet on the table.
“Her husband was ugly and lazy. Her life was miserable. She pondered for a few days on what she should wish for to change her life.
“But then she threw the lamp in the fire and watched it melt. And she turned to her husband and said, ‘I love you.’
“For a month she was kind, sweet, and loving to her husband. She told him how much she loved washing clothes for him. She cooked his favorite dishes. She did all the work he hated to do.
“And then one day he got up early, milked the cow, and then cooked breakfast. After breakfast he washed the dishes, and then went out to work in the garden.
“He became the best husband ever. And they loved each other and lived happily ever after.”
I kiss my girls goodnight and give them “I love you” fingers.
I walk upstairs and slide into bed with Queen Karina. We turn on the computer and watch a West Wing episode. I’m struck when one of the characters quotes an ancient proverb:
“When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.”
Before turning out the light, I kneel in prayer and ask for more humility, gratitude, and wisdom.