by: Katie Sigafoos
A guest contributor bestows us with a tale for all children……
Once upon a time there lived a dear old woman whose cheeks were rosy and whose hair was long and braided. She was old in her bones yet young in her heart and fervently beloved by the town. This woman was wise and she spent many afternoons wandering the woodland and making sure the animals were living peacefully and fairly, that the squirrels and birds were sharing their hollow-tree homes, that the dogs were sharing sticks and she also made sure that the bulbs were planted in Spring and that the flowers were watered in Summer.
The wise old woman had many friends who would ask for her good advice “How do you grow such beautiful flowers every year without fail?” some would ask, “How do you get the squirrel to follow you through the woodland? And how is it that you talk the same speak as the birds?”
“Oh,” replied the wise old woman, “The answers to your questions are too long and too full. Perhaps I will write them in a book and then you can see how it is that I have come to love this town.”
“Oh yes oh yes!” replied her friends and they went off to wait patiently with joyous anticipation.
Days passed and the years did too. Soon Summer had turned to Fall, before long it was Winter and soon enough Spring had sprung once more. Many times, friends knocked on the old woman’s door, “Have you written the book yet?” they’d ask until their patience ran thin.
One afternoon, when the sun was blazing hot, the friends of the wise old woman put on their sun-hats and took to the streets. They walked through the town, past the library, the school and the post office until they came to a quaint little lane with a crescent of small houses. The friends of the wise old woman stood outside one home in particular which had a wooden bird house near the door and a water fountain by the path. The friends knocked on the wise old woman’s door with a ‘rat-a-tat-tat’.
“Why, what a surprise to see you all here,” she said, “but please forgive me it is not my birthday, my birthday comes in the Autumn when the conkers fall from the tree. As you can see, the sun is blazing hot, bright enough to wear our hats and search for shade to hide in. There must be some confusion”.
“We have had enough of waiting!” replied the group, “You must have written that book by now. We must know more about the town, its plants, its animals, its creatures, and the lay of the land. No single body can tell diddly-squat about the ways of the birds or the sickness in the trees, you must help us,” they insisted.
“Ah, friends,” she answered, “come with me into my yard.”
Then and there the whole group trundled through her small home and out to the back garden. The gentlemen took off their hats when they entered the house, as a mark of respect, and the ladies tried ever so carefully to rub the muddy patches from the soles of their shoes. The whole while they walked though there were ‘Ahh’s’ and ‘Ooos,’ as the group admired the wise old womans’ woollen rug hangings and soft quilted blankets that lay about here and there making her home ever so snug and warm in a cozy kind of way.
Before long the army of friends had paraded through the house entirely and stood there in her garden, and my, what a sight it was to behold; blue jays and robins, starlings and sparrows flitter fluttered as they flew from branch to branch of her blossomed fruit trees. Cats curled at the guests ankles looking for a stroke whilst little terriers snuffled at the friends fingers looking for a scratch behind an ear or with any luck a scrap for a treat. The garden was full of the hummmmmm from the bees as they darted hither and thither going from flower to flower collecting sweet pollen on their heavy laden little bee legs. The group of friends from town were astounded and quite silenced by the beauty of it all.
“Let me explain,” replied the old and wise woman. “You see, I have some new neighbours, they moved to our street at the end of last summer, and they were quite happy getting on with their own ways, but now you see, it appears that their two youngest girls just want to spend most of their time in this garden. I apologise friends, as I know you are expecting a book as promised by me to you. Please understand how difficult it is for me to turn the girls away, they simply adore their time here with the cats and the dogs, the toads by the pond and the dragonflies that zoom in and out. The girls even come out here when it rains. I hear the thunder rumble and the heavens open and I think ‘the girls won’t come to today’ and then ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ goes the knocker on my door, and there they are, all suited and booted, ready for a day in the garden! On a rainy day, if the wind blows East, we sometimes have ducks come and visit us here; you see if you look around it really is quite a sanctuary!”
The friends from the town were spellbound. The garden was the most pleasant place and they understood entirely why the wise old woman had opened her doors and welcomed the children to play. The friends of the town told the wise old woman that there was no rush for the book to be written and instead asked if they could come and help tend to the garden.
“We can do more than that,” suggested the wise old woman, “let us tend to the whole town, together, and I’m sure the young girls will also help. We shall take our shovels and our spades and our buckets and our rakes and we shall plant up the town from corner to stone from brook to bank. I promise you friends, if we do this you will learn more than from any book I could write”.
The friends of the town agreed to this, and sure enough on the summer that followed the town held a festival and on that day a man came from the Borough who declared the town the most glorious in all the land. The young girls grew to be women themselves and the town is still on the maps as a place of radiant beauty.