‘My mother is different to everybody else’s mother’. It’s not an uncommon complaint among young women, embarrassed by their mothers’ appearance, lifestyle and/or world view. As the mother of two girls I have felt beholden to follow in that long line of outrageous women whose sole purpose in life is to mortify their children. Quite possibly I will one day provide them with a model to adopt in causing embarrassment to their own children. If not, then perhaps I will have offered them a pathway to understanding and embracing difference.
Great celebrations accompanied the birth of the Princess, who, it was said, never left the confines of her mother’s arms. So enamoured was the Queen with the child. The King proclaimed a public holiday and invited all his subjects to a feast in her honour. The people came in droves, if not to view the tiny Princess, to partake of the King’s generosity. It was a joyous occasion for everyone concerned.
Competition for the position of royal wet nurse was fierce, but the Queen refused all offers, preferring to feed Princess Sapling from her own ample breast…an act entirely without precedent in the royal household. Not only did she feed her, the Queen bathed and dressed her daughter, without the assistance of servants.
Such an unorthodox approach to the rearing of royal children did not go unnoticed. The palace court wholeheartedly disapproved.
The Queen’s devotion to the infant is eccentric, common and unbecoming of her royal position. She is quite possibly afflicted with maternal madness!
When the Queen heard this, she threw back her head and laughed. Then cradling her daughter deep in her arms she sang;
Flesh and blood milk and tears
Strong the bonds that banish fears.
The Princess nestled into her mother’s breast, closed her eyes and slept. The Queen smiled.
When Princess Sapling grew beyond the boundaries of her mother’s arms, the Queen hoisted her up onto her shoulders. The court was aghast.
Not only is the manner in which the Queen transports the child undignified, it is decidedly dangerous. She is quite possibly jeopardizing the life of the Princess!
When the Queen heard this, she shrieked with laughter. Clutching her daughter’s ankles, she ran through the palace chanting;
Bird on the wing soar and fly,
Ride the wind touch the sky.
The Princess squealed with delight, clapped her hands and demanded more. The Queen grinned.
As the years passed, Princess Sapling grew in size and spirit. It was not unusual to see her perched upon the Queen’s head, perfecting her extraordinary balancing abilities. The court was flabbergasted.
Behaving in a manner unseemly to their sex and station, the pair are no better than fairground tumblers. They quite possibly constitute an act of treason!
When the Queen heard this she raced to tell her daughter and together they fell about the palace floor in a fit of hysterics. After wiping the tears from her eyes, the Queen suggested a royal performance.
From near and far, the people came to watch the show. Everyone applauded, although the lords and ladies of the court raised their eyebrows and tittered behind open fans. Talk of the performance lasted long into the night.
The following Spring Princess Sapling waved a tearful farewell to her parents, before embarking on a great adventure. She journeyed to distant lands, engaged in battles of wit and honour and sat at the feet of fools and sages alike.
In time she returned home, but not alone. Her companion was a young man without title or wealth, but possessed of qualities far dearer to the Princess than status or money. He was a Poet.
The King and Queen approved the match. Princess Sapling and the Poet were married within the year and crowned as the new sovereigns. The court was outraged.
Such flagrant disregard of tradition. A King without a drop of royal blood in him and a Queen even crazier than the last one. This was quite possibly reason for rebellion!
When the old Queen heard this, she met with her husband, her daughter and the Poet. Though brimming with wedded bliss, Queen Sapling’s joy was marred with the rumours of a court uprising.
‘What should I do?’ she asked her mother.
‘Stand on your head for five minutes, then go to the village and set up the children’s circus you’ve always dreamt of, go for an invigorating gallop on the creamy mare, feast on your favourite fare and take your husband for a moonlight swim in the river,’ the old Queen replied.
‘I couldn’t,’ said Queen Sapling, ‘it wouldn’t be fitting, under the circumstances.’
The old Queen smiled and winked at her husband.
‘No, perhaps you’re right, my dear,’ she said, ‘cultivate a sense of decorum in preference to a sense of humour, sacrifice the self, confine the imagination and stifle the spirit. That’s the path I chose.’
Queen Sapling leapt off her chair and stood facing her mother, mouth gaping in amazement.
‘Mother what a barefaced liar you are,’ she railed.
‘Amongst other things,’ her father chimed in. ‘Don’t forget she is also eccentric, unseemly, crazy and treasonous, and without a doubt the finest Queen ever to rule in the entire history of the land.’
The old Queen lowered her head, but not before the Poet saw the blush in her cheeks. He turned towards her and spoke.
‘As the oak is nourished by the earth, so it grows strong and tall; a haven for the homeless, a playground for the children, an artist’s inspiration. It must shun the nick of the woodsman’s axe, ignore the termite’s taunts and stand fast against the storm. But know dear Queen, it does not grow alone.’
Queen Sapling kissed the Poet, then immediately stood on her head. The old King and Queen took their leave to prepare for their great adventure. That afternoon they waved a tearful farewell and embarked on a journey to distant lands. Not until the birth of their twin grandchildren did they return home.
Great celebrations accompanied the arrival of the Prince and Princess, and a feast was held in their honour. The people came in droves, if not to view the tiny heirs, to partake of the King’s generosity. It was a joyous occasion for everyone concerned.
Competition for the position of royal nanny was fierce, but the Queen refused all offers, preferring to share the care of the children with her husband. Such an unorthodox approach to the rearing of royal children did not go unnoticed. The palace court wholeheartedly disapproved.
The care of infants is an improper task for a man, let alone a King. That, and the Queen’s propensity for carrying them on horseback quite possibly endangers their lives!
When the Queen heard this, she ran to share it with her mother. The old Queen smiled and nodded her head.
‘How will you address the gossip?’ she asked.
‘I haven’t time,’ Queen Sapling replied, ‘we’re planning an overnight ride and circus camp for the village children and I need to try out the baby’s new slings.’
The old Queen threw back her head and laughed.
‘The tree’s joy lies in bearing fruit and seeing its spirit in the seed,’ she said.
The tiny Princess, draped over her mother’s shoulder, opened her eyes and smiled.
Photograph Mother and Daughters by Roman W Schatz