The Changeling

“Hush, Mam!” gulped Tessa. “Finn is not a changeling.”  Long held in tears welled over and Tessa sank into the fireside chair.  With concern, Tessa’s mother, turned her attention to her beloved daughter.  Her skin had a ghostly pallor and she was exhausted from the long journey from Inverselkie to her home village of Auchnagatt. “Let’s get you to bed,” said Mam “and I will look after the wee cratur.” Silently, Mam thought that she wasn’t ready to call the baby Finn or even accept him.

Tessa’s mother took her out of the damp clothes and gently helped her into the spare bed with a warming pan in it.  Tessa sighed with pleasure at the warm bed with the well-remembered eiderdown quilts.  The sheets were soft from many years washing and smelled of fresh northern air.  Within minutes she had fallen into a deep sleep.  Finn had begun fussing on the table and Mam could tell he was about to let out a wail of distress.  She rushed to comfort him so as not to wake Tessa.

“Let me give you a bosie,” and snuggled Finn into her ample bosom.  As she inhaled the precious smell of the beautiful baby, her heart began to grow tender.  Finn raised his big brown eyes to look at this new person and grasped onto her breast with fat little fingers. “Look at those eyes, ma wee bairnie!” she softly gasped, falling under his spell.  Finn gently smiled, at peace after such a stressful time.  Just then, the latch on the door turned and Tessa’s father walked in, covered in freshly fallen snow.

He cast an eye to his daughter asleep in the bed and then looked quizzically at his wife holding a strange baby. “Sit down Dad, and I will tell you everything,” entreated Mam.  Meanwhile she emptied her sewing box and filled it with her softest blankets.  Mam gently placed Finn in the box who settled down like a cat.  Over supper, Mam filled in the gaps with Dad.  His eyes widened when she told him that Finn was left in a basket outside Tessa and Thom’s door. “I think he might be a changeling,” whispered Mam.

“Ach, Mam!” exclaimed Dad with exasperation, “That’s nonsense.”  Dad persuaded Mam that it was much more likely that some unmarried woman left him at the door.  Perhaps flaxen haired Finn did have ancestor from the Viking lands? “Thom and Tessa came up with a plausible tale and we should support them,” said Dad with a note of finality.  Mam knew better to argue with Dad who was a village elder. “How is Tessa?” he asked.  Mam confided that she looked terrible and that as soon as she recovered from the arduous carriage journey, they should take her to cousin Elspeth who was a healer in the next valley.  As soon as they had received the note from Thom about Tessa contracting the White Plague again, they had sent a messenger to Elspeth to make ready.

The next morning, Tessa woke up with a start.  It took her a moment to figure out where she was.  She looked through the door and saw her father polishing up her old crib for Finn.  It had been sitting in the barn for so many years – Tessa’s eyes filled with happy tears.  Rather unsteadily, she walked into the living room and fell into her father’s welcoming open arms.  Tessa heard a gurgling and turned around to see her mother feeding a bottle of warm goats’ milk to Finn.  He was holding onto Mam’s curly hair and gazing up at her as though she was an Earth Mother.  A fleeting jab of jealousy touched Tessa but she smiled openly at the love between them.

“Granny’s wee bairnie is so hungry,” laughed Mam, spellbound by an unexpected grandchild.  Over the next few days, Tessa’s parents fed her and Finn so much food that they were visibly putting on much needed weight.  Mam was a plain but excellent cook.  Dad was a hunter so their house was filled with plenty.  Tessa eagerly ate the food of her childhood.  Jugged hare, fresh strawberry jam, porridge made with thick cream.  Finn, too, was eagerly eating everything he could lay his fat little hands on.  His new Granny’s knitting fingers flew and in no time, he had a winter layette.  Knitted breeches in all the colors of the countryside – moss green, yellow gorse and rowan red.  Tessa’s needlework skills were matched by her Mam’s knitting expertise.

Tessa had perked up with the comforts of home but she was still coughing up blood into her handkerchief.  Mam and Dad starting packing the horse and wagon and all too soon, they were ready to leave for Cousin Elspeth’s house.  Dad would accompany Tessa but Mam would stay at home with baby Finn.  As Tessa stood at the door, ready to leave, she hugged Finn a little too tightly.  He cried at the ferocity of the hug and the tension in his mother’s body.

“Come awa to Granny,” beseeched Mam, reaching out for Finn.  Somewhat reluctantly, Tessa gently handed him over, knowing that she wouldn’t see him for some months.  The White Plague treatment required months of convalescence.  Finn was oblivious to her as he happily grasped onto his Granny’s bosom.  Dad helped her into the wagon and Mam waved Finn’s little hand to say farewell to his mother.  Tessa blew kisses to him until she couldn’t see them anymore.  Her heart ached with love for Finn but she knew that he could not be in better hands.  Dad gently patted her shoulder in comfort and the next stage of Tessa’s journey began.

Postscript

This is the third chapter of a series The Fairy Gift and The Malady

My husband’s adoptive granny was ambivalent about his arrival because, after they took him home and he was unswaddled, they noticed he had an opening at the bottom of his spine – most commonly seen in spina bifida patients.  They immediately took him to the doctor who diagnosed a small abnormality of the coccyx and said it would heal if he was left unswaddled.  It completely healed but he had to have some padding on his tailbone during certain sports. Granny had beautiful brown eyes and felt a kinship to her only brown eyed grandson.  Their love was enhanced by Granny looking after him while his Mum was in the TB ward.

There is a real village of Auchnagatt in north east Scotland. We lived there in an old house in the late 1980s. The name of the village is derived from Gaelic meaning Field of the Cat/Witch. We had our first three cats – one was definitely a witch…

The Fairy Gift

Many moons ago, Thom and Tessa Goodwood lived in a village in the middle of Alba.  The village was named Inverselkie, for its famous stone-built bridge across the River Selkie.  They were a lovely young couple, similar in many ways.  Both were short and bonny.  Their eyes were blue, hair dark with the rosiest red cheeks.  They resembled generations of their farmer ancestors.  When married they moved from their remote forested hamlet to Inverselkie – a place of opportunity.

Thom was gifted in the masonic trade and helped to build the current stone bridge which replaced the old rickety wooden one.  This made him one of the most admired young men in the village and Tessa was so proud of him.  Tessa had wonderful skill with a needle and made many bridal gowns for her neighbors.  They were simple affairs made of ivory flax but Tessa embroidered them, almost magically, in vivid hues of scarlet and indigo.  Recently the blacksmith’s daughter, a gentle soul, had asked for a more delicate embroidery and Tessa had fashioned the gown with exquisite pale pink and peach freesias.  Now all her customers wanted pastel colors.

Despite their success in their new home, Thom and Tessa longed for something else entirely.  A baby was all they wished for.  Despite prayers and potions from the village wise woman, nothing worked.  Every month, Tessa was so disappointed when nature revealed her infertility once more.  She sobbed and Thom held her in his loving arms, wishing for circumstances to be different.  They both tried to shake off their sadness but it wasn’t helped when village busybodies patted Tessa’s tummy and asked when they were having a baby.  Tessa usually laughed and said, “When the Gods provide…” but a little part of her soul died at each response.

Tessa longed for the comfort of her straight forward mother at times like this but they were many leagues away in the far north eastern corner of Alba.  The landscape and the poor roads made travel difficult and they hadn’t seen each other for many moons until Tessa’s Granny died.  It was an awful, grief filled journey, made worse by freezing snow and an uncomfortable carriage.  Tessa and Thom launched themselves into the loving arms of their families, neighbors and friends.  There were awkward questions from family members too, as they had been married for seven years, but Tessa’s Mam helped deflect them.  Her advice was, “Just keep praying for a miracle”.

The night they returned to Inverselkie, Tessa and Thom settled themselves into their comfortable down filled bed at around 9 pm.  They both prayed silently but were beginning to doubt their worthiness.  They gently settled into slumber until they were woken at midnight by a quiet mewling at their door.  Tessa woke up first and shook Thom awake. “It sounds like a cat, Tessa!  I need my sleep…”  Eventually, they both tentatively opened the front door of their thatched cottage and saw a basket.  They both leapt back when the thistledown blanket moved but then they saw a little hand emerge.  It was a baby!

Tessa immediately picked the basket up and Thom looked around to see who had left it, to no avail.  They brought the basket into the warmth of their living room and put it on the kitchen table.  Tessa pulled back the delicate blanket and stared into the eyes of the most beautiful baby boy.  His hair was a silvery flaxen and his big round eyes were the darkest brown.  “It’s a changeling!” gasped Thom.  Tessa shushed him and gathered the beautiful child to her chest. “The Gods have provided our miracle baby, Thom.  Please may we keep him?”  Tessa’s eyes were brimming with tears and yet as happy as they had ever been.  Thom’s heart unfroze and he reached out to cuddle the baby.  As soon as he held him, he knew this was their answer from to their prayers.

They spent all night feeding and cuddling their strange new child until exhaustion took over.  Thom woke with a start thinking, “I am late for work!”  Tessa snapped awake too, looking with disbelief at the tiny babe with the big brown eyes.  They were full of unanswerable questions for each other. ‘How do we explain the appearance of this beautiful Oddling’.  ‘What will we name him and who left him for us?’  They sensibly decided to wait until Thom returned from work and they would make a plan.  During the day, Tessa learned how to change a napkin, soothe an unsettled baby and most of all, how to love with all her heart.

When Thom came back from work at the stonemason’s yard, Tessa was full of excitement and ideas to explain the appearance of the baby left in a basket on their doorstep. “Perhaps we should check if someone has lost a baby or at least consider that the child might be a changeling?” queried Thom who, after a hard day at work, was now apprehensive. “Hush, Thom!” said Tessa – “Keep your voice down. Finn is our miracle gift from the Gods”.  A faint cry from the basket near the fire alerted both new parents to the object of their concern. Thom gently lifted the newly named Finn into his arms and melted as the big brown eyes met his. Tessa smiled indulgently at the two beloved boys in her life. “Has he eaten well?”, asked Thom.  Tessa told him with a satisfied smile, “He has had warm Goats Milk, a softly boiled egg and sucked on a rag dipped in honey”.

“Why did you call him Finn?” asked Thom.  Tessa explained that Finn was a Celtic name that means white or fair.  His halo of silky flaxen hair was certainly fairer than most Alba folks who usually had blue eyes with dark hair.  Since they had only just returned from Granny’s funeral, they decided that they would tell their neighbors that Finn was the result of a liaison between an unmarried cousin of Tessa’s and a visiting Norse trader.  That would explain the curious light hair and Finn’s sudden appearance.  Tessa and Thom would be seen as caring relatives who took in an unwanted baby.

Tessa eagerly showed Thom a small layette of baby clothes that she had stitched when Finn was napping.  She had used the finest linen from her store and knitted some items in delicate lambs wool.  Even so, nothing was quite as soft and magical as the thistledown blanket in his basket.  Silently, Thom and Tessa gave thanks for Finn and wondered how his mother, fairy or otherwise, could give him up.

Post script

This latest fairy story series is based on the true story of my husband’s loving adoptive parents.

THANK YOU to Pixabay and Wikipedia

Sexuality through the ages

He had a eight pack...

He had a six pack…

The title suggests that I am delivering a historical thesis but I am really talking about sexuality through my ages. In the previous post I referred to a nightclub I frequented. The owner was a paper millionaire at least and took a fancy to me. I was 19 and although I no longer looked innocent, I was very obviously an ingénue. He was ANCIENT – probably about 30 but very handsome and likely married. He told me he was separated from his wife and I chose to believe him because I was intrigued by his interest in me. Girls were lining up to take advantage of this rich, handsome man and my disinterest was probably like catnip. I guess we got to first base and he took me to dinner one night. The truth is that I was slightly repulsed and scared by the age difference even though he was a looker. I blew him off, stopped going nightclubbing with the ‘girlfriend’ and then got back into a serious relationship with the steady boyfriend.

Just before that I met a very handsome man who was a catch at the nightclub. We had some fun in his car when he took me home but I was secretly frightened that he was too good-looking for me and unceremoniously dumped him when the regular boyfriend reappeared after a short break-up (like a fungus). I was perplexed by how upset the handsome man was and then just moved on. About a year later, I met an old college friend who coincidentally consoled the very handsome man at the pajama party that I declined to go to and they were now living together. To my surprise, he had talked endlessly about this charismatic American/Spanish/Irish girl that he had met and my name was so unusual that she knew who I was. I felt guilty on a number of levels – that I had used my fairy glamour on him for my own selfish purpose, that her relationship with the love of her life was sullied by his brief encounter with Khaleesi and that I had made a terrible mistake. I really wanted to marry or be with a very, very well qualified guy and he wasn’t it. I joke with my husband, who has a B.Sc. and Masters, that he is the least smart date I have ever been serious about and it is mostly true.

When I was 19 years old (all this was happening that year) I was at the height of my sexual allure. I was asked on dates at bus-stops, male college friends would walk 4 extra miles to carry my college books to my bus station and generally men fell at my feet. It was intoxicating and I took full advantage of it. By the time I was 20, my steady boyfriend had dumped me because of my numerous infidelities and, as his mother had indicated, I was not the right girl for him. I moved on swiftly to the international student association, dating my way through the world, breaking hearts as I went. When I met my current husband at age 21, I had been dating two handsome global students at the same time with their grudging permission (take it or leave it) and was setting off to the Edinburgh Festival with the first date of a life time. He looked a bit like Mick Jagger. My friend, who was a geologist, invited me to her 21st birthday party and I felt I had to attend so declined the Edinburgh date. I guess the rest is history.

I met Teddy, was astonished that a geologist could be funny, handsome and have an eight pack (Scottish Karate Team). We were engaged in 3 months and married within 11 months. For most of that time I didn’t see him as he was working overseas so it was a shot in the dark but my instinct was correct. I predated him then, and beat out some ferocious competition at the same party. Then I took him home with me, to meet my mother, and seduced him along the way. He was both shocked and delighted at this innocent looking kitty in heat but he did not protest…

So, I married at the age of 21 and discovered that I had both some medical sexual problems (frequent UTIs) and hormonal/fertility issues but not immediately. Like most young married couples we were at it like rabbits, trying out gymnastic positions and generally having lots of fun. Then over time, our sex life got less interesting and more painful for me. The turning point was realizing that we could not have children naturally and that I definitely had a mental illness. My husband is adopted and I could not bear to go through the adoption process only to be denied because of my poor mental health. Nonetheless, Teddy and Bunny adored each other and we moved through the decades with love always present but sexual desire waxing and waning.

More historical documents tomorrow…