Sylvia Dickey Smith is a novelist whose fiction has won the hearts of readers everywhere, especially in the south. Often told in third person, her novels portray strong, memorable characters struggling with the same issues and timely situations that readers face in their own lives. In downtime from novels, she dabbles in re-imagined fairy tales, such as this one.
Smith is a native Texan, where she formerly conducted private practice as a psychotherapist. She has published stories and essays in anthologies, and her Sidra Smart mystery series received terrific reviews. Her most recent release, A WAR OF HER OWN, is a historical novel set in southeast Texas during WWII, yet it isn’t a war story. Instead, it is of the home front—a period of profound sociological change, particularly for women. Her most recent novel is ORIGINAL CYN, a tale of love, lust, transgression, betrayal, and the transformational power of forgiveness.
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In a far off land, east of the sun and west of the moon, a whiney old crone named Drizella sits outside the golden gates of the Queen’s Palace, wailing over fate’s misfortune. Beautiful in her youth (according to her mother, at least) she’d dreamed of slipping her foot into the glass slipper, marrying the prince and living happily ever after, raising perfect children, with a castle full of nannies to make sure, and of course wearing the finest of clothes.
But, alas, the slipper had been too short, and her foot too long. Her one consolation was that neither had the shoe fit her sister—that is her real sister.
The winey crone snivels, wipes her nose on the sleeve of her ragged garment and bemoans the cruelty of years. Whence came all the wrinkles and this thin mousy gray hair? Not to mention her ever-enlarging nose and ears, and the few scraggly hairs on her chin. Even the ‘widow-maker’ treats her unfairly, refusing to return her tiny waist regardless of how tight she pulls the laces. Her back aches. Her sister never calls and her sons come around no longer—the ungrateful lot.
One beautiful sunny day, while in the midst of her whining, an even older crone appears with a glow on her face and a spring in her step—her voice pleasant, melodic, even. “Why do you whine, my dear sister? Do you not know this is the best years of your life? Too bad you did not well prepare yourself, else your step would spring and your voice would sing.”
“Give me a break,” the whiney old crone exclaims. “What’s so great about getting old, ugly and feeble? My back hurts, no one calls or comes to visit, and should I venture out, men pass me by as if unseen.” Whine. Whine. whine.
“It is because you spend your day in front of the mirror that you whine, my dear. For mirrors only reflect the outward you, not giving chance for inward reflection. You give insult to the name of crone. For a true crone does not whine. Instead, she fills her days with wisdom learned over the years, with purpose, humor, courage, compassion for others, and vitality.”
“Vitality?” the whiney crone spat. “I fight to get out of bed every morning. How in the queen’s name am I to find vitality?”
“It takes years of work, my dear, and you are way behind. You’ve wasted your years regretting each one. You fail to feel empathy or compassion, or to use your energy and power wisely. As a consequence of such, you have not earned the joy a wise crone discovers with the passing years.”
“Okay, smarty pants. You know so much. Tell me what you did that is so different than me. For you, too, longed to wear the glass slipper and failed. You, too, have aged, yet I see young men here at your feet, eager to learn what you know. Why is that—tell me, old crone.”
“Dry your eyes, wipe your nose, and lend me your ear.”
The whiney crone did just that.
“First off,” the beautiful older crone said, “is to stop that infernal whining. You must let go of the idea that if the stupid glass slipper fit your big foot, your life would have been perfect. The shoe didn’t fit your big foot! What is is. Get over it.”
“Okay, Ms. Smarty Pants. Just tell me how in this world am I supposed to do that?”
“Stop thinking about what didn’t work. To dwell on anything we have no power to change is a useless exercise, and we end up getting more and more depressed, and we spend our days whining about what might have been.
“The more you whine, the more stuck you are in the past—a past you can’t fix. The end result is you stay stuck right there at the moment the prince tried to put that silly glass shoe on your foot. That’s truly over and done with, but because you keep whining about losing out, you’re still caught at that moment in time. Which ends up helping you find even more to whine about.
“That was then—this is now. Whining makes you dry up into an old hag. Look in that mirror. Do you see one juicy thing about you?”
The whiney crone looked. She didn’t like what she saw. “You mean to tell me, if I stop whining, these wrinkles might go away?”
“It won’t make the wrinkles go away, but they’ll soften. You’ll have more energy—a passion for life. Get involved—care about something. Get interested in something—take your mind off of yourself and put it on others. Find something funny to laugh about—every day, without fail. If you can’t find it, create it—go find a young lover or something.” She laughed.
“Yeah, right. Like that’s going to happen.”
“You never know—but this one thing I can guarantee—it’ll put a spring in your step.”
“So, that’s all I need do?”
“Goodness no. There’s a lot more to life than that. Grow something. Crones are good at pruning, weeding.”
“You mean like a garden? I can’t do that, for my back is too stiff and my joints, they ache like a son-of-a-gun. Every time I kneel, my—”
“There you go, whining again. Growing something doesn’t mean it has to be plants, my silly sister. It can be, but other things need to grow, too. Nurture something—whether it be a garden or people. Find something—or someone—vulnerable—like a child that’s lonely, or a young mother who can learn from your wisdom. For, despite your whining, you have learned a few things over the years—and that is the wisdom of the ages—otherwise known as Women’s Intuition. Trust what you know deep down in your bones. Let that wisdom bubble to the top. Share it with those open to receive it—those who look for the wisdom of the ages. Learn to practice patience—then teach it to the impatient.”
“Is that all?” Drizella wondered how in the world could she remember all these lessons, let alone do them. “I should’ve been taking notes.”
The wise, juicy old crone smiled, for she knew the secret of the HOW. “By finding your voice, my dear. For silence equals consent. Crones like you and me? We speak our minds. We tell ’em how the cow ate the cabbage—that the emperor’s running around outside nekked. That’s how. Find your voice, use the wisdom of the ages, grow something, let go of the past, stop your dang whining and laugh—and learn the beauty of a big foot.”