“Yes, ‘snappy comeback,'” Sagacia said, filling Marni’s teacup. “You know, the perfect retort, the killer comment that you’d say to the teacher who feared parents would complain about At A Loss in Altoona’s fairy tale topics?”
As she offered muffins around, Sagacia noticed Jeff Gere leaning forward and clearing his throat. She quickly slipped a packet of tea onto Charles’ saucer, that new Jasmine blend, and sat down to listen.
“This reminds me of a story where that happened,” Jeff said.
“I had just finished a program of fairy tales to upper elementary kids who were absolutely mesmerized, laughed on cue, buzzed when buzz is good, etc…. A parent came up to me on the side of the stage immediately after I finished–red in the face, rabidly offended that I would bring up such topics–dysfunction, abandonment, hauntings, and magic!
“I apologized for offending her sensibilities, she continued heatedly and before I could edit, it came out: ‘Clearly what these stories report are not part of your reality, but indeed, I must confess that I find much in them which reflects the world I see. Have you opened the papers recently? War on unarmed civilians is rampant. People are displaced from their homes by the thousands. Have you driven down a back ally at night recently- seen anybody sleeping in a cardboard box? Know anybody from Mexico, or any other America south of here? Howzabout Iraq, Afghanistan… “
Jeff straightened his shoulders authoritatively and his Hawaiian shirt rippled in response. Have any out-of-luck Hawai’ian friends?” he sneered.
“My hope is that in their couched, symbolic language the stories will prepare children for these realities and hopefully provide a few more answers. We have not done too well by the unfortunates around us. Perhaps nobody told us fairy tales when we were young.’”
The Fairy Tale Lobby exploded with applause!
“You tell ‘er, Jeff!” shouted some.
“Bravo!” echoed others.
“There’s only so much an innocent storyteller can take,” Mary Grace Ketner affirmed.
“All the more reason to think about it ahead of time!” Sagacia said to her quietly.
“I don’t know what I might have actually said to the teacher At A Loss in Altoon described,” Mary Grace continued, “But if it ever happens to me, I’d hope to say, ‘Here’s my phone number. Tell them to call me!’ I’d say that with a smile, because I wouldn’t want him to know that I suspected that he, a teacher–a well-educated community leader–was the one with doubts about the importance of Fairy Tales!”
“Oh, no!” Sagacia nodded. “Certainly not!”
“Then I would have sighed and commiserated for a moment about how parents always complain about teachers and schools. I’d state the obvious fact that there *is* evil in the world, and children know it, and they need to know that *adults* know it, too. They need to know their caretakers are not stupid, right?
“Right!” said Sagacia.
“I would remind him how stories about people who successfully navigate evil and danger give courage and hope to others. And I would mentioned the special needs of some children, whose home lives are scenes of violence and emotional struggles and secrets, to have their lonely path affirmed with stories that illustrate the possibility of reaching a good resolution, a ‘happily ever after.’ I would hope that these thoughts about what a 12-year old can handle metaphorically–and, in some cases, are already balancing in real life–would cause that teacher to reflect upon the the circumstances of the students in his class.
“Yes, yes, and yes!” Sagacia voted.
I would suggest that he go back to his classroom and ask, “Which stories did you like best…and why,” and then listen to what the students had to say. Most often, they like the violent ones–not because they are violent, but because justice and goodness are served in the most dramatic way! My hope is that that classroom conversation would prepare him to want to take on any parent phone calls himself.
“Hallelujah!” Sagacia said, leaping up from her seat.
Mary Grace blinked at the sight, and sat back down. She hadn’t realized that she’d stood up somewhere along the way and turned to preaching. And to the choir, too! with Sagacia as lead soprano.
“Not very snappy, I suppose,” Mary Grace appended, blushing. “But that’s what I would say.”
“One doesn’t always have to be snappy, dear.” Sagacia whispered, patting her on the shoulder comfortingly. “Really. You win more flies with honey, you know.