Hi all! I was thinking about what to write this month and was telling my husband about my grandpa and his “side-hill horses” story that he loved to share when I was a young child when it hit me. Tell Grandpa’s story and how it inspired me to be a storyteller. Back in the old country as it goes the land was very hilly. So much so that horses had to develop shorter legs on one side just to be able to navigate the steep slopes. Though a very short tale, it always took me away from the everyday to imagine what such a horse would look like and it seeded my imagination with ideas that have become never ending in my life.
Grandpa was my first glimpse into being a real storyteller. A kindly man who had emigrated from the old country, he loved to have his grandchildren sit on his knee and share with them tall tales that would keep them mesmerized by the hour. He was the best babysitter you could ask for and I want to share one of the stories today that I wrote thinking of him and my grandma. The story is in the book Forever Man and reading and sharing the tale still makes me think fondly of him and my precious time growing up in our loving family.
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“I can’t sleep Grandma Rose. Please, tell me a story about faeries!”
“Well, you remember how your grandpa always wore a feather in his cap?”
Sunday Rose nodded; her face full of anticipation as she waited for the tale to continue. “Well, this night was Samhain night—our Celtic New Year’s feast night—and it is the time other worlds come into close contact with ours. A time when faeries and humans can come together to celebrate. Your grandpa and I were courting and he was taking me to the festival. I begged my ma and got the material to make myself a brand new dress—a beautiful white eye-lit dress that had ruffles at the shoulders and a full skirt that would be just perfect for dancing. I tied a blue velvet ribbon in my hair and I felt like a faerie Queen myself!”
The kindly older woman with the still beautiful features was swept back to that magical time when her man had come a-courting. Sunday Rose waited patiently for her to continue as her stories were always worth the wait. Better than books, she got to hear a living story.
“Your grandpa—he was a handsome devil. Dark shiny hair and the bluest eyes you ever did see! Dressed to the nine’s in a new suit and a jaunty hat to boot. He brought me a red rose corsage and pinned it to my dress at the waist. He said it was impossibly tiny, my waist, that is, that his two hands could circle it. Ah, your grandpa, he was a charmer.”
“I wish I knew my grandpa.” Sunday Rose couldn’t help the words from falling from her lips.
“Ah, child. He was taken from us too soon, before you were born. That’s the way of it, the good die young. I’ll probably live forever, not having lived the life of a saint.”
“Grandma, you’re a good grandma!” Sunday Rose could not bear the idea of anything slanderous being said about her beloved grandma.
“Well, when you lived as long as I have child, you see too much. But, I’m telling you a story.”
Sunday Rose settled in closer in her grandma’s comforting arms. “The town square was all lit up with glittering candles and fireworks were going off and lights were strung around the dance floor. It was a wonderful sight. People were so happy to be out now that the harvest was in, talking with their neighbors and kin alike. We joined another couple, William and Martha, who were just married a few weeks before. William and your grandpa worked together at the steel mill and were good friends. Your grandpa always spoke well of him. He was devastated when he was hurt on the job—helped out Martha and the kids for years after. Felt it was his obligation. I so admired that man.”
Her grandma paused for a sip of water and continued, “Now, as luck would have it this was a very special Samhain night. The faeries were out in full force as it was the five hundredth anniversary of Queen Avallach’s death. When a faerie Queen dies, child, the web between the two worlds thins and faeries, playful creatures that they are, like to cavort about in our world, knowing they can pull lots of pranks on humans and get away with it. Samhain is an excuse for them to do all sorts of things, because they can make themselves invisible.”
Sunday Rose’s eyes grew round as she thought of all the mischievous that faeries could get into being invisible. She immediately wanted to be a faerie and play jokes on others. There was one boy in the neighborhood that really deserved a prank being played on him, she thought with glee. She hated it when he would squish flat her fancy mud pies and laugh at her distress. Imagine what she could do to him if she was invisible.
“Wow, grandma, I wish I could be invisible.”
“No, you don’t child. It’s a heady responsibility, one I’m sure you don’t need to worry about.” She smiled at her beloved grandchild. If only the child knew. . . She brought herself up short and continued, “It was time to light the bonfires in the Macalister’s meadow and we all headed over there. Your grandpa took my hand and I let him this time. I knew something momentous was happening between the two of us and I was so excited child, to be out and about with such a handsome man. Your grandpa, he was some man!”
The two females smiled at each other. Sunday Rose thought her grandma looked so beautiful when she talked about her grandpa.
“A particularly annoying faerie named Abby was looking to cause trouble with a pair of humans this night and set her cap on grandpa. Well, soon as I realized what was up I let her know that she wasn’t going to get away with any of that nonsense!”
“What did she do, Grandma Rose?”
“She asked grandpa to dance and tried beguiling him with the act of mesmer. Faeries have this ability to kind of mesmerize humans into doing what they want. And Abby was looking to lure your grandpa away for a night of pleasure.”
“What’s a night of pleasure?”
“She just wanted to have him to herself to dance with and talk to—to steal him away from his human.” Rose did not want to get into what was really going on, the child was far too young for such carnal knowledge.
“Wow, that’s not nice. Grandpa should be dancing and talking with you. I’m glad you didn’t let her get away with anything!” The very idea roused Sunday Rose’s young ire.
“Of course I spoke up and gave her the what for when she tried her nonsense. You got to watch faeries, child. Some are good and some are up to no good.”
‘What about grandpa’s feather?”
“I’m getting to that part now. We were walking home when a shimmering blue feather dusted my white dress in the moonlight. Probably off a wild turkey—very iridescent and ever so pretty. Well, grandpa picked it up and placed it in his hat and said these very words.” She waited deliberately to be sure she had her granddaughter’s full attention before she continued in a wondrous tone.
“I’m keeping this feather, Rose, as a reminder of how you set your cap for me on this night. And I’ve something to ask of you.” And then he got down on one knee and asked in his wonderfully rich baritone voice, “Will you marry me, Rose? You’ll make me the happiest man on earth. Please, say ‘yes’.”
“And say ‘yes’ I did. Best decision of my life!”
Sunday Rose was jerked back to the present by a sudden stirring in her womb and she patted the child within. “Grandma Rose wouldn’t know what to think of you, child. But I do know she would want me to fight for what is right.”