Willow at Magpie Tales has prompted us once again. Check out the other stories and poems that have resulted from this picture:
I’m Pamela Elizabeth Julia Mariana Stokes-Wharton. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? You’d think I was born of royalty, or at least a Fortune 500 family. Actually I’m just a middle-aged spinster librarian, living in a two bedroom bungalow surrounded by a picket fence, in the small town where I grew up.
My nickname as a child was ‘Mouse’ and it suited me then and still suits me now – mousy hair, non-descript brown eyes, a sharp nose, slightly buck teeth. My clothing style is somewhat mousey, because I prefer to wear neutral colors like beige, grey, brown. That way nobody will really notice me.
There’s nobody left that calls me Mouse any more. My mother, a flamboyant women’s-libber long before her day, always surrounded herself with color and light and people. She was the first to call me Mouse, saying I was just like my father. Papa was a teacher, typically seen in an argyle vest and bow tie, glasses perched on the end of his nose which seemed to be always stuck behind a book. A quiet man, he was the one who showed me the wonder of the world of books, a place to escape into a land of exotic travel, futuristic fantasy, and passionate love affairs. My only sibling, Cassandra, known as ‘Princess’ at home, is much more like our mother, but we rarely see each other now even though we live in the same town. When we do meet she’s always careful to call me Pamela.
Our little town is situated on the edge of a lake and is owned by the Goldberg family – well, not actually, but they do own most of the businesses – Goldberg Pharmacy, Goldberg Produce, Goldberg Mercantile, Goldberg Hardware, even the Goldberg Beauty Parlor although that’s actually called Penny’s because Penny Goldberg is the hairstylist that runs it. Cassandra married a Goldberg, the current town mayor, and is always busy. She belongs to the country club, presides over most of the boards in town, entertains flamboyantly, attends regularly at political social events with her sons (one holding a provincial seat, the other a federal seat), and travels extensively, which has included two around-the-world cruises. Cassandra wouldn’t be caught dead wearing gray or beige, at least not without a splash of bright purple or electric green in a scarf or shell top. We’re complete opposites in every way.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my sister, have great respect for my brother-in-law, and adore their children. There just isn’t much time in their lives for a little mouse like me.
Everybody else in town calls me Miss P. That was started by the children at the Saturday morning story time at the library some 30 years ago. And even my grown ‘children’ with children of their own still call me that.
On this Saturday morning, just a week before Easter, I gathered up my books and papers, and headed out to meet the children for their story time. I was especially careful to make sure I had the pictures of my sister’s Faberge egg to show them. Two weeks ago I had started to tell them the history of Easter eggs, and told the tale of the first Faberge egg created for Czar Alexander to give to his wife in 19th century Russia. Last week, when I started a story about Easter eggs and Easter bunnies, little Jimmy Wilson said they all wanted to know more about those ‘fabercated’ eggs. The other children agreed vehemently, so I promised them pictures this week.
My sister and her husband have a large house on an island in the middle of the lake, accessible only by boat, so I’d had to make special arrangements to get there to take the pictures. Cassandra had bought the egg on one of her round-the-world cruises, and kept it in a locked glass cabinet with pride of place in her living room. She’s always careful to make sure every visitor sees it, and as frequently as possible tells the story of her purchase in Russia. I’ve always been in awe of her ability to even afford such a wonderful treasure, but found it difficult at best to hear the story one more time on this recent visit.
The children seemed extra excited this morning, and it took quite a while to get them settled to listen to the story. But eventually they calmed, and I told them another Faberge-egg story I’d gleaned from the internet, then showed them the pictures. They oohed and aahed, and gathered close around me to get a good look, many of them wanting to touch the picture.
I heard Sarah Larson come into the room to gather the children for their craft time, which followed story time each week, so without looking up I began to get the children back into their seats. They were still a little more noisy than usual. When at last I looked up, Sarah stood quietly at the back of the room with her hands behind her back. I hardly had time to wonder what was happening when Jimmy Wilson yelled ‘Surprise’ – and all of the other children joined him in a jumble of Happy Easter wishes. I still wasn’t sure what was happening, but then Jimmy went to her and she produced a package from behind her back.
Jimmy carried the package carefully to me, and said, ‘Miss P, we want you to have your own ‘fabercated’ eggs to put in a glass case in your house. So we asked Miss Sarah to help us. Here!’
I opened the package to find a basket of hand-painted eggs, each in a jumble of colors in the art styles of typical four- and five-year-olds. Sarah said, ‘They told me they wanted you to have a Faberge egg – it took me a while to figure out exactly what they were talking about – so last week I had the paints and brushes and eggs ready for them.’ My eyes teared, I didn’t know what to say, and I had to gulp a few times before I could offer hugs and thank yous to each of the children.
When at last I looked up again, the doorway was crowded with people – older children, teenagers, young adults, some of the parents of the children. All of them had been ‘my’ children, at least on Saturday morning at story time. From the back of the crowd, Peter Bentley slowly moved forward. I could hardly believe I was seeing him.
’Peter Bentley,’ I exclaimed, ‘what are you doing here? I thought you’d settled in the city after you finished university.’
’You’re right, Miss P, I do live in the city, and there’s not often a chance to come back and visit since my parents retired and moved away. But, when the call came two weeks ago, I just had to be part of the party. You see, Jimmy and the other children told Sarah that you needed a Faberge egg of your own, and she called around to her friends and started a fan-out to everybody they could think of who had listened to your stories, or who had children who had been at your story times. Sarah and the children made their own version of Faberge eggs, and the rest of us went on a search. We hope that you’ll like our little token of appreciation, and enjoy it as much as we enjoyed your stories over the years.’
My eyes teared again, and I looked down at the lovely egg, almost afraid to touch it. ‘You shouldn’t have,’ I managed to blubber out.
’Oh, yes, we should,’ Peter responded. ‘Every one of us learned to love books and to have the world at our feet through the stories you told us as little children, and the perfect reading you always found for us as we grew up – novels to excite our dreams, texts to help us with our school assignments. You’ve always been there for us, and we wanted to show you how much we appreciate your caring and sharing.’
’Well, thank you, thank you all. I will treasure this gift for all of my life, knowing that it was a gift of the heart just like the first eggs made for Czar Alexander.’After a chance to chat with all of my ‘children’ of all ages, gradually the room emptied out, and only Peter was left behind.
‘Peter, I can’t accept such a wonderful gift, you can’t possibly afford the thousands that this must cost…’
’Well, honestly Miss P, a real egg is actually worth up to millions, so you’re right, we couldn’t possibly have afforded it. So I just called up your nephew to find out where his folks found theirs.’’But my sister bought hers in Russia.’
’Not possible, Miss P – they’re just simply not for sale just anywhere. Hers came from the same reproduction house where we got this.’
Little did Peter know what a wonderful gift he’d given me when I finally felt on the same footing as my sister, not that I’d ever let on to her that I knew our eggs were both just simple knock-offs. I felt like going out and buying a bright orange scarf!!