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"March winds blow and we shall have snow and where will poor robin go?”
Well, if he’s hanging around today with the mistaken idea that winter’s over, he’d better find a warm barn, and quickly.
There are so many poems and verses that relate the miseries of winter weather, and as a child I responded to them all, with tears. Even today, when I looked out my window and saw animal prints in the new fallen snow, I started to blubber.
Remember the story of the statue of a prince, somewhere in the center of an obviously middle European town? Somehow, and I can’t remember all the details, the statue had lost its eyes. Or maybe, never had any pupils like so many of the Greek and Roman statues. That has always bothered me because it’s so hard to visualize the living person without eyeballs.
Well, anyway, the prince’s statue had no eyes and the poor fellow couldn’t see anything going on around him. One day, in mid-summer, a small sparrow moved in at the statue’s feet, built a nest, and became a good neighbor, eventually becoming eyes for the prince and a great source of neighborhood news. The prince was happy and so was the little bird.
Then came winter and she told him she was going to have to fly away. He begged her to stay, which she did, and, of course, ultimately froze to death. The prince wept, one of his tears revived the bird, who managed to survive the rest of the season, and she and the prince lived happily ever after.
I can still remember how heard I cried when the bird died and the prince wept. I also remember crying when I read the story to my children and how much they cried at the same time.
The same was true when I first read Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl. I wept copiously as a little girl first hearing the story and cried with my kids when I read it aloud.
The tale of the prince and the bird was written by Oscar Wilde, one of my favorite authors. I adore his sardonic and, often, cruel wit. He was brilliant and I find myself saying, “I wish I had said that.” Except for Dorothy Parker and Mark Twain, no one ever did come close.
Imagine my amazement and delight when I discovered, in my teens, the few fairy tales Wilde wrote, (no pun intended). They were totally unlike his other works, most of which I’d read. Talk about tear provoking – it’s a wonder I didn’t drown in my chair.
In addition to the prince and his seeing eye bird, there’s one that is dynamite. It’s the tale of a Spanish princess, the Infanta, whose father, the King, had given her a special gift – his court jester. It was the custom in olden times to adopt a dwarf and make him a court pet. You’ve seen this depicted in many movies. The Infanta was delighted, never realizing, in her dumb princess way, that her new toy was a grown young man and not a human lap dog. She treated him as such. The jester, in turn, came to love the beautiful princess, and typically, thought her affection was true love being returned.
Wilde’s devastating point was that the dwarf had never seen himself in a mirror. In a heartbreaking scene, he takes a good look at himself and faces the reality of his sad and cruel life.
His reaction is heartbreaking. Wilde’s writing is powerful and personal. My reaction was a complete breakdown.
Naturally, I read Wilde’s stories to the children and they still remember how sad they were – particularly my daughter, who grew up to love all Wilde’s writing as I do.
I know I was determined to teach my children empathy and compassion and I succeeded. I don’t know if any of them are thinking of the poor snow-stricken robin, sparrow, or match girl today, but I am, and I had better close before I start bawling again.
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