i was reading some thought provoking queries involving children and dangers from strangers a little earlier, and they sent me spiralling into reflections on my own childhood. i see now, more and more with every passing day and year as a mother, what a very rich and free childhood experience i shared with my sister. there were wolves lurking around many trees and corners and passageways, yet i have no memory of my mother ever telling either of us “stay away from such and such person”, “stay close to me”, or anything in the vein of “beware of strangers”. we strayed, we roamed, we came face to face with wolves. we dealt with them. sometimes woodsmen came to our rescue. the wolves came in all shapes and sizes, but were unanimously male, with very big eyes to see you with, oh yes my dear. it was the witches who were female, with big big ears to hear you with. some got the better of us, some we bested. and so we were free to go about and be tested, awakened through experiences, our intuition honed, polished through constant use. and the world was and remains a safe, enormous, wondrous place to explore. including the wolves and witches.
in one instance, when i was nine and my sister six, we had a new cook. he was a shortish man with wavy black hair, big brown eyes fringed with thick, long lashes, a large hooked nose and extremely pouty, constantly puckered lips (all the better to eat you with my dear). he was cousin to the last cook we had, who had found better paying employment with a neighbour down the road and had availed us with this relative of his in exchange. and boy, did he make really great stuffed parhatas, fried pomfret fish, and fried bananas. he sang well too, lilting soft tunes while he chopped, stirred, and kneaded. he was pretty quiet, other than the singing. where his cousin would chat enthusiastically with my mother or the other people in the neighbourhood, this man kept to himself.
no matter who the cook, if we had one, mama would always lock the kitchen door when she took her afternoon nap. we never connected it to the fact that she only did this when we had a cook; in our simple minds she was keeping us out of the kitchen, therefore we had to find a way in. which we did. one afternoon we managed to ‘break in’ through the window located between kitchen and living room. we jimmied it open and were thrilled to get the better of her.
i climbed in first, goods in fridge on my mind. while i was pondering the cold box’s contents, blisfully unaware, i was mauled and roughly grabbed by this very same new cook who was on the other side of that locked door, lying in wait. he even crushed his greasy lips to my face! it was too surprising to even be disgusting. instead i found myself faced with an instant response, which resulted in immediate action: i fought my way free of his embrace and kicked him and yelled as loudly as i could. then i recall my mama came in through the kitchen door and gave the cook a loud, rousing dressing down. “how dare you”, “how would you like it if someone treated your sister this way”, etc. he looked suitably shame faced, eyes downcast, and sheepish the whole time. you might think she fired him, she did not. he continued to work for us and she stopped locking the kitchen door. we came and went through it, he didn’t hassle us. she spoke no words to us, no scoldings, stay away from the cook type stuff, nothing. he left after a month or two and we never saw him again. but the experience was a teaching one. it was awakening of its own accord, no words neccessary. and forevermore it is an experience i remember from my childhood that i was free to have and am grateful for.
have you had a wolf or witch encounter in your childhood? what was it like? . . . .