The Girl Who Wasn’t Welcome

Posted by on May 5, 2000 in Children's Stories

 

Once upon a time, not so long ago or so far away a child lived with his mother and father in a very grand house. They were very wealthy and very important and very busy people. Their only child, a daughter, was fair of face and form. She had everything that she could want or desire. The parents worked hard but they were always bringing her presents, even when it wasn’t her birthday or Christmas. They told her how much they loved and wanted her. And she would smile, accept a nice present and wait to get a hug. But the hugs seldom came and she very seldom had time to play with her parents. They were very serious and very busy.  

Maria wasn’t happy. Somehow she felt there was something wrong.

Maria thought, “I know they want me very much, but somehow I don’t feel welcome here. It’s as if I had to be good all the time or they might stop loving me. I wonder why I don’t have any brothers or sisters. Toys aren’t nearly as good as a brother to tease or a sister to play with.”

Maria had imaginary playmates instead of brothers and sisters. One was called “Joe” and the other was called “Mopsy”. She could never explain why she gave them these names but they were a brother and a sister. To her they were very important people. It seemed to Maria that they were real enough that she wanted to talk to them, but she knew that would sound silly. Sometimes she did talk to them but made sure that nobody was looking.

Occasionally her mother was watching her from across the room or around the corner. She could hear talking. The mother seemed very disturbed by Maria talking to her imaginary brother and sister. One time Maria overheard her mother say to her father,

Why does she always play with an imaginary little boy and little girl. I don’t think it’s natural. I wish she would go and play outside. Do you think she should go and see the doctor?”

One time Maria was playing outside and it got dark. She knew that her mother would be very angry when she got home so she spent the night in the playhouse that her parents had built for her. Normally her mother would have been frantic, but she assumed that Maria had gone to bed by herself like she always had. The mother didn’t normally tuck her in and kiss her goodnight so she never missed Maria until the morning when she was supposed to get up and go to school. The mother assumed, when Maria didn’t arrive for breakfast, that she had gotten up and gone to school early. It was only the next night that she began to worry and look for her.

Maria, instead of going to school, had spent the day playing with Joe and Mopsy. She could almost see them run down the road ahead of her and so she ran gaily down the road, through the town, and out across the fields. When she got to the fields, the warm sunshine, and the birds and the breeze made her so ecstatically happy that she forgot where she was going. Maria just ran on and on.

Maria crossed a brook and went over a hill and still she was happily playing, not knowing where she was going. From the top of the hill she could see a town ahead of her and assumed it was hers. So she started wandering off in that direction. By the time it was dusk she was just coming to the limits of the town. She soon found that it was a different town. She was quite lost and became frightened.

“Oh, what a silly girl I have been. My mommy and daddy will be terribly worried. I wonder where I am. I am beginning to feel hungry … I hardly had any breakfast and no lunch and playing in the fields makes one very hungry. Why would my playmates lead me away from home? Maybe they didn’t like it there.”

Maria wandered up and down the streets of the town wondering what she should do. She thought maybe she could knock on a door like they did in the fairy tales. Maybe somebody would take her in. She wondered whether it would be a good person who would give her supper and a nice place to sleep for the night, or a bad person who would hurt her or even eat her! Finally, when her tummy was really rumbling, she looked in a window of a little white house. She could see a table set for three people and there was a good smell of food coming out the doorway, which was half open. She went up and knocked. The person who came to answer her knock frightened her at first. He was just such a little man, all out of shape and no bigger than herself, except that his head was very large and out of proportion. She wanted to scream and run away when he smiled. It wasn’t exactly a sweet smile, but it was surely a welcoming smile. His wife bumbled out of the kitchen and stood behind him. She was even shorter!

“Oh,” said the man (whose name was Leonard) with a funny, gravelly voice, “who are you? I was expecting somebody to come for supper with me but I didn’t think it was you! My other guest is late so why don’t you come in? There is lots of good food and I would certainly like to talk to someone.”

Somehow Maria felt quite safe so she went in the home and sat down to a wonderful bowl of bean soup, hot bread, good milk with some chocolate in it, and rice pudding.

Meanwhile, back at her parent’s house there was great consternation. When Maria’s parents had discovered that she was gone and they began blaming each other.

“It’s your fault, I knew she would run away,” they said to each other, “we better call the authorities to help us track her down. I imagine somebody has kidnapped her, holding her for ransom and wanting a lot of money from us. Well, they won’t get any.”

“No,” said the father, “nobody is going to get any of my money!”

“What!” said his wife, “don’t you love your little daughter?”

“Well,” said he, “yes, of course. But I wasn’t really sure I wanted children … it was your idea.”

“Yes,” she said, “I’m glad I have a daughter. I only wish I had more. It’s your fault that we don’t.”

“No it isn’t,” he said, “It was your idea to keep working at the office. Of course we could have had more. But you really didn’t want to be a mother.”

All of this bitter talk that was going on between the parents made them forget to do anything practical about finding Maria. Eventually they did contact the authorities. The police also suspected that the child had been kidnapped by one of the worse bandits in the area. They weren’t particularly pleased at the prospect of confronting this notorious person. So they didn’t try very hard to look for Maria.

After looking into the night and the next morning, and some of the next day, the authorities and then the parents gave up and went back to their busy lives. The parents were sad for a few weeks and then they got on with their work and almost forgot about Maria. They even talked about adopting an orphan from overseas.

Maria was befriended by the dwarves. They were nice and kind. At times they were bad tempered and mean. It seemed that people would poke fun at them. They didn’t pay Leonard properly for the hard work he did on the farm. They would trip him sometimes just to make him fall over and roll. Because he was hurt by the tricks and nasty words, he would come home feeling dejected and sullen. His wife, Molly, would try to comfort him but she too was often insulted when she went to the market. They liked Maria very much but sometimes they would be very upset with her.

Maria did not go back to school. She was afraid of getting in trouble. Besides, she was beginning to like her new life with the dwarves. Although she was only eleven, she soon learned to cook and help keep the house while Molly sold vegetables in the market. They soon became very good friends.

One day Leonard suggested that Maria accompany him to a town where he wanted to buy a donkey. The donkey would help him take the vegetables from his garden to the market. Maria was happy to go out in the sunshine and travel again and so she quickly agreed. They walked a long way and before they got to the next town Maria was very tired. Just as they were entering the town, two men came striding up and demanded that Leonard give them all of his money. Leonard had saved for such a long time to buy this donkey that he was not going to part with his money under any circumstance. But then one of the men grabbed Maria and said that if Leonard didn’t give his money then Maria would be hurt.

Leonard, at first, was very frightened for Maria and then became very angry. Maria had never seen him so angry. He took his walking stick and hit one of the men on the head so hard that the man covered his head and began to howl. Seeing his friend attacked, the other robber ran to his aid, thereby releasing Maria. Leonard didn’t know that he was about to be attacked from behind. Maria stuck out her foot and tripped the man as he ran past her. The man, stumbling, ran headlong into his colleague who got a hard head in his tummy. In the semi-darkness the two robbers couldn’t see who was fighting with who. Eventually they began hitting each other in a wonderful brawl, leaving Maria and Leonard to walk on alone and unharmed.

That night, Leonard and Maria stayed in an inn, whose innkeeper was a very stout, boastful man and his wife, huge and domineering. However, they provided good beds, and good meals, and good directions to where Leonard could find a donkey for sale.

On the outskirts of the town, Leonard and Maria found a little farm. The farmer was happy to see them and happy to sell his donkey, because the price was right. Maria noticed that there were lots of children who lived in the home. They all seemed to be happy and they worked happily on the farm. She also noticed a sign above the front door which read, “CHILDREN, YOU ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.” Suddenly she remembered how important a brother and sister were to her. As they started for home, with Maria sitting on the donkey, Maria looked back. She was going to ask her friend, Leonard, if she could possibly go back there, She knew it would hurt his feelings and his feelings had been hurt many times, so she only cried.

When they got back to their town, Maria, Leonard and Molly were once again very busy so Maria didn’t often think of a brother and sister. But just before the time that they celebrated Thanks to God for the harvest, Maria had a dream. She dreamed of a brother and sister. Her imaginary playmates who had disappeared somehow, came to talk to her, to tease her and to play with her.

In the morning, when Maria woke up she couldn’t stand it any longer. She went to Leonard and Molly and said,

“I must find a brother and sister. May I go back?”

Leonard and Molly were very disappointed. They had grown to love Maria and to depend on her help. However, after thinking it over for a couple of days, they decided to take her back. So she rode back on the donkey and came at last to the little farm with the house full of children and the sign that read, “CHILDREN, YOU ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.”

Leonard told the story to the father and mother, of how Maria had come to live with him and how she wanted so badly to have a brother and sister. As far as the dwarf could tell, she was an orphan. Mother and Father were happy to have children but knew it would be terrible to take in a child whose parents were looking for them. So they made very close enquiries from Maria about her mother and father. Maria told them that it was at least six months ago that she had left home, quite by mistake. She didn’t understand why her mother and father had not been able to locate her. She could not remember the way back to her town. The parents thanked Leonard, who walked sadly away, and took Maria in, saying that surely she was welcome but that they would have to try and contact her parents.

Maria soon settled into the family. Not only did she have a brother and sister, but she had a whole bunch of them. She could never decide which one she enjoyed most. On the first night she was there they had a big party for her and made her feel very welcome. They told her that it didn’t matter whether she was wanted or not at their place or in the world, but that she was welcome. They felt that the fact that she was alive added something unique to the world. They hoped that she would never leave.

Maria’s parents were finally located. They came to talk it over. Her parents realized that Maria was not happy with them. They could see that she was happy at this other home and so they said that she could stay there.

Maria talked to her new father and mother (whose names were Frank and Sandra Happy) and asked about her imaginary brother and sister. They looked at each other knowingly and said very little at the time except that they would talk to her some more about it. Maria wondered what it was all about. One quiet night she dreamed about her imaginary playmates. This time they seemed to be telling her that they weren’t imaginary. In the morning her new parents explained that some mothers and fathers don’t welcome a child when they are first conceived. They somehow feel that it is more important to bring a child into a home where everything is absolutely perfectly ready and so they have the child’s life terminated. Maria was not a dumb child. She had a good idea what that meant, but her new parents didn’t seem to want to talk about it. In fact, they both began crying. So Maria was brave enough to say,

“You mean, they killed my brother and sister?”

“Yes, I’m very sorry. I guess your parents couldn’t welcome them into the world.”

Maria sobbed and then she got really angry. Then she cried some more. When she couldn’t cry any more, Father and Mother happy tucked her into bed and said prayers with her.

In the morning they told Maria now it was time to say “goodbye” to her brother and sister. Maria wrote them each a little letter that she put in a wooden box. Everybody in the Happy family stood quietly as Maria buried the box on a sunny hillside. Maria was very serious but she felt very relieved. She never again had dreams about Joe and Mopsy. She missed them, but it was good not to have to keep them happy by playing with them all the time.

Well, that’s the end of this story. If you know anyone whose brother or sister was killed before they were born, remember it helps just to be able to talk about it.