Tomato cages and The Unwanted Child

This morning, I took advantage of the rare cool morning and busied myself building higher tomato trellises. (Y’all. These maters have NO chill this year.) The whole time, I was thinking, thinking. Mostly about old stories. And I started crying on the tomato vines, after a bit.

The story trope of the Unwanted Child (I’ll capitalize for emphasis) has been so globally pervasive, throughout history. Something about that narrative sticks so hard, no doubt because there’s a lasting wisdom to it that speaks to and empowers undernourished hearts.

Aschenputtel, whose beauty inspired her stepmother to treat her as slave.

Rhodopis, the Greek-Egyptian Cinderella treated badly by other servants because she looked different.

Mary Belle and the Mermaid, whose cruel father shot the gentle mermaid who provided Mary Belle with the only kindness in her life.

The Juniper Tree, in which a beautiful boy is decapitated and cooked by the stepmother who hates him for existing.

Joseph and his coat, whose brothers sold him after he shared his gift of prophecy.

Vasilisa the Fair, whose jealous step sisters give her the impossible task of collecting fire from the witch Baba Yaga.

Father Frost, in which a girl is banished into the snow by a stepparent who despises her loving nature.

Harry Potter, whose adopted family despised his gift of magic.

Even Ratatouille, in which Remmy the rat is shunned by his family for his passion for cooking.

Instead of being valued and nourished, these children are feared for the goodness they bring to the world. I imagine the “step” parent theme speaks less to actual family arrangement and more to a sort of parabolic biological imperative of the mind and heart. Some homes are not safe. Some communities recognize that another person’s “DNA” is different, and, instead of holding and cherishing that community-balancing difference, they succumb to the urge to snuff it out.

The fruit these children bore out of their own beauty and goodness became a liability within their unsupported environment. They were exactly like tomato vines, producing goodness from the sacred blueprint of their bodies, but their homes were flimsy cages that failed to bolster them up. Their life-force broke under the weight of their own beauty. No one lifted them up and made them strong.

I’m rambling. My point is, to myself, to you, precious reader, is that sometimes escape is okay. Engaging your culture is important, generally speaking, but not to the point of death. And not from a position of tentative survival and desolate exposure; that kind of engagement is best done from a position with deep roots in a scaffolding of love. This is an old, old wisdom that’s fought hard to find its way to you over thousands of years.

Don’t introduce your mermaids to assholes. Don’t tell your dreams to mouth breathers. Don’t slave over creme brulee for those who dine on garbage. Let the witch in the woods teach you the hard earned skills you need to survive without the haters. Your apparent idiosyncrasy is someone person’s “most beautiful in all of Eygpt”. And maybe that some person is *you*. That’s good, too.

It’s okay to get away sometimes. Sometimes, the simple act of surviving is the best kindness you can provide to the world. Because, in that story, you LIVE. You get away. And the world needs you.

Advertisements