Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Grandmother Willow, Original Female Character
Challenge/Prompt: halfamoon Day 7: Generations, 1_million_words Say What Friday: "Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.", and my own challenge to write a Christian story every month (I need to get back to that!)
Warning(s): Mentions of the true tragedies Pocahontas endured, Does not paint John Smith or Powhattan in a good light
Word Count: 1,956
Date Written: 11 March 2018
Disclaimer: Grandmother Willow belongs to Disney, not the author, and are used without permission. Everything else is mine.
She can remember when her people used to fill this land. Of course, some of the newer generations have come to belong to her as well even though she never talks to any of them through any means further than the songs of the breezes in her sweeping leaves and the birds who occasionally come to nest within her ancient boughs. But very few of the children these days does she consider hers.
People have changed so much. When she was a sapling, even the children had worked. Once they were old enough to walk, they were old enough to help gather food, even if nothing more than nuts, berries, and corn. The young and elderly who could not walk for very long periods of time still contributed to the community by weaving baskets, shelling beans and peas, and husking corn. Everyone except the babies gave of their time and bodies to help the village. The babies added joy to lives that may not have otherwise felt much and grew to fulfill their places in the village as well.
But here, in this land that is the same place where the seed from which she grew first landed and yet is still so different, very few of the children work. Many adults work, but some do not. Those who work still do not contribute to the well being of others; they work only for themselves and for a few others. A family is not the whole village now. It is in smaller sections, and the old willow tree understands little of what she sees every day.
Still, there are some things that have not changed. There are still those who are outcasts among their own people. There are still those who are different, who are, and she considers this to be true with hesitation, better than the others around them. It is a clear distinction with the people for whom she casts her shade these days whereas back in the olden days, the distinction was not so great.
Or at least she had not thought it to be. Her bark shivers and her leaves shake as she remembers what one powerful ruler had grown to be. She had never thought that Powhattan could have the heart to turn against his own daughter, but losing his wife, her Mischievous One’s mother, had made a hard man out of him. In a way, he was responsible for his own people’s downfall.
After all these generations, she still weeps when she thinks of her Pocahontas. She remembers a child so full of beauty, love, and freedom that it truly hurts to remember what became of her. She should have known when the white clouds were coming that they could not be a good sign. She had known they would bring change, but she had still been naive. She never could have imagined the change that they had brought.
She’d known the first white man would break her favorite Princess’ heart, but she never could have guessed that Pocahontas’ own father would allow her to not only be taken but would sell her or that another white man would come along and come to her rescue. Rolfe had been a good man, but her Pocahontas had never loved him.
Nowadays, people don’t even know what love is. Parents -- or at least the good ones amongst their lot -- love their children. Some siblings and friends love one another. But as for the true love between a man and a woman . . . That feeling that once changed whole worlds has become all but lost among the people of the current day. Some of them claim to love each other, but if one watches them with the eyes of a grandmother, one becomes knowledgeable that even they, for the vast majority, do not know what real love is.
Like the boy who’s currently accosting the young girl who sits beneath her branches. Grandmother Willow has watched this child over the short term of her life. She has seen her grow from a child who was brought here by her mother while her mother worked for hours selling things that the old tree could not possibly understand to the beautiful, young teenager she is now. Her mother rarely comes with her these days, but she is doing well and has a new man and two new children in her life. The other boy and girl also do not accompany the child nor does the father.
Yet the girl sometimes reads aloud. She sometimes talks as though she knows there is a kindly presence near her. She does pray, too, to the one who shines the warmth of the sun on the willow’s gnarled, old bark. But one of the things she asked the Sun God for was this boy’s attention. Grandmother Willow knows she doesn’t need it even if the girl does not. She’s seen what this boy does with all the other young girls he’s brought to this park, and she’s seen that he never brings the same girl twice. Her young one deserves better.
“NO!” Grandmother Willow snaps out of her reverie at the child’s cry. She whips out her vines and smacks the boy’s back end. He cries out in surprise, pain, and quite possibly more fear than anything else. She hits him again and then again, and finally the scoundrel flees.
The girl reaches through the tender grass at the old tree’s base, searching blindly for her glasses. Grandmother Willow hesitates again, but finally, seeing the child could be searching for a good while, uses her vines to press her spectacles against the girl’s small hand. She grabs them, slides them onto her nose, and looks up in awe.
“I always knew you had a spirit! The other kids thought I was silly to spend so much time sitting here reading. I know they think I’m weird anyway. They don’t like to read. But you enjoy the books when I read them to you, don’t you?”
The old tree hesitates to answer. The girl’s head drops. She frowns. Willow catches a tear in her eyes from behind the sheen of the glasses she always wears. “Maybe they’re right. Maybe I am silly. But I’m not wrong!” she declares, looking up again. “You ran him off! I know you did!” Her voice drops to a whisper again as she seems to almost plead, “You know you can trust me. I prayed for a friend when I was little, for someone who would watch over me, for someone who would protect me from those nasty men my Mom always used to come here to meet. God answered by giving me you, and I know you’re real even if you won’t let me see you.”
“Thank you for running him off,” she continues. “I didn’t know he was that kind of -- “ She shivers and draws her clothes closer around her small frame. “I didn’t know he was just like those men Momma used to -- used to sell herself to!” She reaches out, wraps her arms as far as she can around the old tree, and hugs her. Grandmother Willow hasn’t felt an embrace like hers in centuries, not since her beloved Pocahontas. “Thank you for saving me,” she murmurs against her bark and then presses her lips to her wood.
Droplets fall from high up in the ancient tree’s vines. She reaches out with her vines and returns the human girl’s embrace. She hugs her to her.
“It’s okay,” the girl whispers, still holding to her. “You don’t have to show yourself to me if you don’t want to, but if you do, I promise I won’t tell anybody else. And unlike other people, I don’t break my promises.”
She’s watched over the years. She knows she’s genuine. She’s honest. She’s kind and loving and reminds her so very much of her Pocahontas. Grandmother wishes with all her essence that she could have saved her Pocahontas as easily from John Smith and Powhattan both as she has saved this girl from the boy who would have claimed her body and left her, body, heart, and soul, aching had she not swept in to her rescue.
“I thank God for you,” the girl whispers again against her bark, kissing her once more. “Sometimes it’s felt like you’re the only one who knows me, who really sees me, you know? Who cares about me.”
“I do care about you, my child,” Grandmother Willow finally answers, “and so does the Father who gives us the sun, the grass, and the soil, who made you and me.” At long last, she allows her bark to twist into a kindly, old face. She keeps her image small, the girl’s own frame blocking her from being seen by anyone who might happen by them. There’s always someone in this new world looking for things that are not theirs from which they can make money after all. That, like the guns and tobacco for which Powhattan sold out his own daughter, is another evil that is slowly working on destroying this world and all those who she still holds dear.
“I knew it! I knew it!” the girl cries out in jubilation. “My stepfather always says I look at life through the wrong end of the telescope, but I knew you were real! I knew you had a soul!” She hugs her again, more tightly this time, and Grandmother Willow wishes the child’s arms could reach all the way around her although she knows such is an impossibility. “He doesn’t know anyway! He doesn’t believe in God!”
“God believes in you, little one, and so do I. That’s why he’s kept me here so I can help you.” And others like you, Grandmother Willow thinks. Her Pocahontas may be gone. She may have been unable to save that sweet child, but there are still others who need her help, who need her saving.
“I know. He kept you here to be my friend,” the girl answers, hugging her again, “and I’ll never forget that!”
For a long time, Grandmother Willow just keeps her vines wrapped sweetly around the child, but at length, she finally asks, “Did you bring the book? The one with the little man who lived in the Earth and was traveling with people greater than he to right the most terrible evil?”
She laughs. “I did! He’s a hobbit, you know, not a man.”
“I know. I like him all the same. Actually, I like him more than most men I’ve met.”
The girl laughs again, and with Grandmother Willow’s vines still wrapped around her, sinks back down to the fresh green grass, digs the book out of her backpack, and begins to read. As the years go by, she continues reading books to the old tree and visiting her every day. Even when she becomes an adult and has her own child, she teaches her read to the tree as well. That child teaches her when the time comes, and that child teaches hers and so on for many more generations.
Grandmother Willow smiles at each visit, thankful she didn’t give up on the human species and keeping a watchful eye out not only for that family but for the other girls who come to seek shelter underneath her great, sweeping branches. She may have failed Pocahontas, but she won’t fail another child for as long as she lives -- and that seems to be a very long time indeed yet. The Father of the sky and the earth, of herself and the humans, is not over with her, and so her own story is not yet finished. She still has innocents to protect after all.