A Gift from Lisa Suhay
It was winter and creatures great and small prepared for Holiday time. This was one time, in all the times, when everyone stopped to find peace and remember joy.
This was because the world was often a fast paced and worrisome place where creatures too often forgot important things. One animal was always hunting, another being hunted. Some spent all their days gathering.
Still, the creatures always made it their practice to have this special time. Holiday existed as a safe space when no one chased and no one ran and all shared all they had.
Some chose for it to last one day, others chose three and still others chose to take an entire week for the Holiday time. They had not only to remember, but also to share their joy. This was done with gifts, songs, sweet treats or simply by sharing a smile or kind word.
It became a busy time of year, a time of planning feasts and gathering together.
But, no matter how long they chose to celebrate, all remembered to remember their joy.
All remembered but one - Cricket.
Cricket had always been known for her songs of joy. But lately Cricket began to think joy was like a beautiful and fragile glass ornament. It was to be handled gently, on special occasions only and made a great fuss over.
Now, at Holiday singing practice, Cricket was not handling anything or anyone gently, although she was making quite a fuss.
That was horrible! You are doing it all wrong, Cricket squeaked at the tree frog in the choir who had sung the wrong notes. You arent even trying. You sound like a pack of toads, all of you.
All the singers hung their heads in sadness.
This is a song to joy, Cricket shrilled. You need to soundjoyous. Oh, this is awful. Never mind. Everyone go home. There will be no singing this year.
One brave little bird asked, Why dont you sing anymore Cricket? When you used to sing with us, instead of telling us what to do, it always sounded lovely.
Cricket just made a sound like a rusty hinge. I have nothing to sing about, Cricket said. Besides, Im too busy trying to help all of you.
Everyone left and returned to the town. Where they would normally have carried joy in their hearts they took with them sorrow and bitterness instead. Everywhere they went that day they spread that sorrow and bitterness to all they met.
This had been going on for a long time. Cricket had met with Mr. Mouse the baker. When she tasted a sample of his cookies she complained they were not sweet enough.
Oh, I do hope that the ones you make for the Holidays are better than this, Cricket had said. These would take the joy out of anyones mouth.
So had Crickets bitter words taken the joy out of Mr. Mouses cooking. It had also taken some of his confidence. Mr. Mouse decided then and there to leave the cooking to someone else this year.
At the school where Writer Rabbit was working on a story about holiday cheer, Cricket hopped in and looked over his shoulder.
Oh, Cricket, he said. I would be glad if you would read my new story. I am sure it will make you smile at seeing how many good deeds the children have done this year.
Cricket hopped up on the table and began to read. She was not past the first few lines before she began to say, Tsk, tsk. Oh dear. This will never do!
Rabbits whiskers drooped. What is the matter?
Well, you certainly have not learned to spell yet have you, she said in a sharp tone. And this wording is all wrong. She sighed, and huffed and made twitchy faces until Rabbit took the papers back.
Rabbit said, Oh, I see. Well, yes. I will correct that. But what did you think of the story? Didnt the part about little Otter helping to save little Mouse from that wild cat make you smile?
Cricket tsked again and shook her head. Well if that mouse had listened to his mother in the first place and not gone wandering, he would not have needed saving at all - now would he? A very annoying tale indeed.
Poor Rabbit sighed and folded up the papers. I see your point, he said. I think I will go home now and try and come up with one that is better.
A very sound idea, Cricket chirped. Then she hopped out of the school and back down the lane.
But Rabbit had not written a new story. He had gone home and given up. When Rabbit returned to the school the next day to teach the young ones he had been very cross and critical of all their efforts. As a result, no Holiday tales were written.
Cricket did not realize what she had begun. In her mind she had been working hard to make things perfect and the others had been lazy and not listening.
So it was that time passed away and so did the joy.
On one silent night, a songless, joyless eve before Holiday was to start, Cricket headed down the lane toward her home. As she passed through the town she noted that there were few decorations and most creatures she met spoke little to her, if at all.
After all my work it comes to this, Cricket said to aloud to herself. Why do I bother? Nobody listens. Nobody cares. They only want the gifts and the noise. Nobody remembers the joy.
At that moment a wind blew through so hard that it knocked Cricket flat on her back and left her feet sprawled in the air.
You certainly have forgotten your joy Cricket, said the wind. Worse! You have made others forget theirs.
Cricket was furious. She righted herself and brushed off the dirt. How dare you knock me down and tell me such terrible things, she cried. Who do you think you are?
I am the Ill Wind that blows no good. And you Maam, are no good to anyone this Holiday season, Ill Wind said.
Then it blew harder and flattened her again. How dare you knock down other creatures spirits and say such terrible things to them, The wind howled.
Once you filled me with your songs, Ill Wind said. It was my pleasure to carry your words and music far and wide. Now you have changed your tune and say you have nothing to sing about. You make me sick at heart - so I am now the Ill wind.
Ill Wind blew harder and harder until Cricket was pinned to the ground. Help! Help, Cricket shouted. But Wind took the words and threw them back at her.
Help? That is certainly what you need, Ill Wind said. I could blow you so far away that you never ever find your way back to this place. Or better yet. I can take you away from all this and leave you here to see what you are missing. Yes. That is what I will do.
The Ill Wind blew colder and colder until Cricket began to freeze like a tiny statue. She was frozen in a block of ice.
Cold as your heart has been, Wind said. So you shall be until you remember what is important in the Holiday season.
Then the Ill Wind vanished in a huff and a puff.
It was not long before Cricket was discovered by some of the creatures that lived in the little town. Tree frogs, snails, mice, birds, and rabbits gathered around the little figure.
Oh look, said Tree Frog, the one that Cricket had shouted down during singing practice, Cricket thinks herself so perfect she had had a statue of herself made for Holiday!
The others laughed. Some shook their heads.
Inside the ice Crickets shame burned like a flame, but the ice did not melt.
I suppose she will be angry if we do not put the statue in the town square for all to see, said the Baker Mouse. All agreed.
So the creatures dragged the icy little block into the town square and left it there.
Without the shrill voice of Cricket to fray nerves and poke holes in everyones spirits the joy began to return to the little town. Decorations were hung. The singers held a concert in the town square and Cricket was not missed.
The Holidays came and Cricket saw all the creatures she had insulted and heard the music that had annoyed her. Now it sounded perfect. She began to wish she had not been so critical.
She was angry with herself. She was so busy being angry and sad that still she could not remember her joy.
Seasons passed and the heat of summer failed to melt Cricket for her spirit had frozen with the ice.
One day, Writer Rabbit came to sit by her.
This tale is for you Cricket, he told the statue. Wherever you are, I hope these words will find you. We miss your songs.
He carried a few pages of paper that he began to read aloud. It was her story, a tale of someone who had been dear to all, but who had forgotten to show her joy and then had lost it altogether and finally disappeared herself.
Crickets heart melted first, then her mind. In moments she stood before Rabbit as he blinked in shock.
Rabbit began to hop up and down and shouted for everyone to come and see what had happened. All the creatures rushed to the square and were amazed to see Cricket standing there in place of the little block of ice.
Cricket, Rabbit said. You were trapped in there all this time? Can you ever forgive us for not trying to get you out?
Cricket looked around at all the worried faces.
It was not a job for any of you, Cricket said. It was my own cold ways that made the Ill Wind blow and lock me in the ice as cold as my heart. If you will have me back, I promise I will be warmer, kinder.
All gathered around Cricket to welcome her back.
Cricket took Writer Rabbits story called, Something to Sing About, and set it to music to thank everyone. She sang a song so warm and sweet, it created a change in the Wind.
When she sang this new story-song the Wind of Change picked it up and carried it far and wide to warm the hearts of those who had forgotten why they should find their joy in every day.