The Parable of a Foolish Little Girl

Once upon a time there was a very foolish little girl. She was very small. Not quite so small as three, or two, nor anywhere near as old as seven or eight. She danced her awkward, lopsided dance somewhere around four. Or six maybe. And for her very small size, she was very very foolish.

We happen upon her this day, of all important days, at a little past four in the afternoon. It is the time of day when the golden light is yawning and beginning to lean sideways against the trees. It has begun to look a little pink, where it pours, like liquid, through the branches and pools in lovely patterns on the sidewalk.

As we peer in on our foolish little girl, we gaze fondly at the top of her head (for she is very small) as she hops along a dusty street. Her very small and foolish hand has been swallowed by the very large and strong hand of her father. He walks purposefully, his clear eyes focused straight ahead. His long legs make steady, even strides, never too large for his small daughters foolish pace. “Pace” is perhaps not the best word to describe how she is moving along this golden, dusty road. She trots; she skips a step or two. She gives up moving her feet independently of each other and takes several two-footed jumps. She gives up using both feet at the same time, hopping first on one foot and then the other. She gives up on moving forward and tries jumping sideways, and than backwards. Her father pauses patiently and she does not see the smile he rests on her. She has found a dusty blade of grass that has made its way up through a crack in the sidewalk into the golden pink light. She and has crouched down to examine it, her dusty little dress making a tent around her knees. She is singing a little song to herself with words and then no words, and finally made-up words. Forgetting her blade of grass a moment later, they continue on their way. She twists her neck and small body one way and then the other, bending down and leaning back, to find any and every distraction, great or small. And so they meander through this golden afternoon at her small and foolish speed.

Before too long, they turn off this lovely, dusty lane of trees onto a quiet street of shops. The little girl’s foolish eyes widen. Her little tuneless song forgotten, her lips form a foolish little ‘o’. She has spotted their destination. The golden afternoon sun gleams brilliantly off its great display windows and the large red letters of its sign. “TOYS” it reads. She cannot read it, of course; she is far too small. However, she has seen this shape and collection of letters before and knows what they promise. She gives a tiny gasp as a grand and foolish idea is born in her mind.

Papa? She pulls down on two of his fingers (which is all she can fit inside her tiny, foolish fist.) Papa! He lowers his great, strong body to the level of her urgent whisper, to softly answer,

Yes, my child? With one finger she motions for him to bring his face closer and tickles his great ear with her request. She looks at him expectantly, bounces a little, mustering her most angelic expression to spread across her mischievous face. His answering chuckle is amused, but devoid of mockery.

No, my child. He shakes his head with an affectionate smile, You have all you need, for now. And I already know what I want to give to you. It is far better than anything you would choose for yourself.

Really? (She cannot remember why she is still whispering.) He nods his head solemnly. Perhaps she misunderstands him, or perhaps she only listens to what she wants to hear. He said ‘give’ and she knows what is at the end of this street. He rises from his knees and allows her to pull him along by his two fingers, taking large, determined steps toward the toy store. Foolishly, she believes she is leading him.

He pulls open the door, leading her through ahead of him. He than nearly runs into the back of her, where she has abruptly stopped, just across the threshold. Her small foolish eyes are wide and shining. Her lips are parted in rapt delight. The walls are lined with shelves, floor to ceiling, filled with all manner of glorious toys. Smaller tables and displays cluster about the room, covered with even more magnificent things.

Stay with me, my child, her father says, and keep hold of my hand. She nods her head obediently, but her eyes are caressing every beautiful object they find. He leads her to the counter where he begins exchanging pleasantries with the shopkeeper. She stands dutifully by his side for a moment, staring from one man’s face to the other as they converse. She is soon bored. Her gaze begins to wander again.

At first, she is content merely to examine with her eyes, but the lovely toys are so enticingly mysterious. She could not possibly understand all the secrets they hold without further inquiry. Without entirely realizing it, she absently allows her tiny, foolish hand to drop from the safe refuge of her father’s, and she begins to wander about the store. In her foolish mind, the little girl believes she knows her father well enough to guess the gift he has promised her. She begins to play a game with herself—a guessing game. She lets her eyes drift over the shelves and displays until a particularly bright color, or interesting shape catches her eye. She takes the thing in her hands, turns it upside-down, shakes it, smells it, looks for any switches or buttons to press, listens to any sounds it makes, and decides if it is perfect for her or not. It usually is. She then rushes to her father’s neglected side with her treasure in hand and pulling on his fingers says,

Papa, I found it! This is the gift you are going to give me, isn’t it? Her smile is expectant. He pauses from his conversation and smiles kindly down at her,

No, my child, that is not for you. And with a small, slightly disappointed sigh, she places the item back in its place and goes in search of a new love.

At first she takes each shake of the head and No, my child with only a tiny foolish shrug of her tiny foolish shoulders. As her selections become more and more lovely (for she believes her father would want only the best for her,) her disappointment increases when each delight returns to its shelf. Disappointment gives way to frustration and her whimsical wandering pace becomes a shuffle. Her face takes on a puckered, storm-cloud look, and her shoulders are bunched around her ears.

Is this it? She yells across the store angrily, waving over her head the ugliest, most uninteresting thing she can find. Her eyebrows have met above her nose and look ready to pounce.

No, my child. He calls back, without looking over his shoulder.

Humph. She says, and carelessly tosses the item over her shoulder. She points her back toward her father and continues her search.

She finds it near the back of the shop. It sits nearly alone in a forgotten corner. She would have missed it entirely if not for its brilliant sparkle. It is more beautiful than anything she could ever have imagined. She had never even considered something so delightfully perfect for her could even exist. Surely this must be the gift her father promised her. How could it not be? Her frustration is forgotten. Of course he denied her all those other things because he knew she would find this! She takes her jewel from its corner with both hands and cradles it lovingly in her arms. She gazes down at its beauty; its brilliant colors are reflecting in her awe filled eyes. She cannot believe she is so fortunate. All her of her short and foolish life has lead her to this moment. She can feel her heart beating so quickly and so close to the surface she half expects it to leap from behind her skin and embrace the treasure itself.

She turns and walks with slow, stately steps towards her father. She clutches her prize to her chest, never taking her eyes from it.

Father she says in an awed whisper, Here it is. I found it. He turns from his conversation and looks down at her. He surveys her radiant smile and the object of her affection clasped in her small foolish arms. Slowly and deliberately, he lowers his body again, until his strong, clear, eyes are even with her small, foolish ones.

My child, he says slowly, this is not the gift I promised you. Her foolish smile remains frozen on her face for an instant, looking uncomfortable. She breaks into nervous laughter,

Ha ha. Oh. You are kidding! Ha ha. You’re funny, Daddy. Her breaths have a desperate quality. He says nothing, merely gazes into her eyes, lovingly, but without hint of a smile. What? Her lips form the word but no sound escapes. She watches his face go runny and distorted as her eyes fill and overflow onto her small cheeks. Great hot tears are splashing onto her beloved, still clutched to her breast. But…but… She can hardly find words for this great sorrow to fit inside. But you promised! This is the only thing I have ever wanted and I will never want another thing more. Please. Please! If you loved me, you would give me this gift you promised! Her voice trembles but gathers strength, rising to nearly a shriek.

My child, He says again. His voice is as gentle and truthful as the spring sun. This is not the gift I promised you. She fails to notice the sadness on his face and hears only the finality in his words. That is not what I promised. I promised you something better.

Her grief snaps into rage. I do not want BETTER! I. Want. THAT!! She hurls the great and beautiful thing to the floor with as much force as her tiny, foolish body can manage. She leans over, opens her mouth and lets out a long, scalding yell at the thing, lying inertly on the floor. She flings her voice at it as though it is to blame for why it cannot belong to her. Her father silently picks it up from beneath her yell, and with both hands returns it to its place. She redirects her fury onto him.

You…are…a…LIAR! She screams. You’re a LIAR!! You promised me a present! But it was a LIE! You never meant to give me ANYTHING! Why did you even PROMISE!? Was it a game? IS IT FUNNY!?! He turns to face her and kneels before her so his great, gentle eyes meet her tiny, foolish ones. They are narrowed to slits and blazing. Her face is purplish and contorted. Tiny, hot tears are carving streaks through the dust on her cheeks. Her nose is dripping. She wipes it with the back of her hand in one violent gesture leaving her face dirtier than before. She lowers her head, her teeth bared in nothing short of a snarl, and flies at him, pounding his chest with her tiny, foolish fists. He wraps his great arms around her tiny, foolish tantrum, muffling her yells and her flailing limbs in his large, gentle embrace.

A long time passes. Her kicking and pounding slow, and her screams of rage have softened into enormous, hiccupping sobs. Finally,

Why did you even make the promise if you were never going to keep it? She asks of his chest, where her face is still buried. Without knowing it she is clinging with both fists to the rough fabric of his shirt. It has the comfortable smell of outside—freshly cut grass and summer wind—and a large damp patch from her tears. He rests his cheek against her hair.

My sweet child, I never promised you anything from this small, foolish store. She draws a deep shuddering breath, worn out from all her weeping. I want to give you something so much greater and more precious. He presses his lips to the top of her head and whispers into her curls, it is me. I want to give you myself. She stretches her small, foolish arms up around his neck, which is almost too high for her to reach. She keeps her face pressed against his shirt. He folds his great arms more tightly around her and stands, holding her next to his heart. He turns slowly and carries her out of the store. Its sign stares at his back as he walks away. Her small, foolish head is resting in the hollow of his neck and shoulder. The little girl’s small arms dangle limply over his shoulders, and her small feet are hooked together behind his back. Before they reach the end of the street, before the scarlet sun has breathed its last sight and nestled behind its hill, she is fast asleep. Her thumb is in her mouth.

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~ by ifindthisamusing on March 23, 2007.

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