The Ghosts and Chains
There once was a little girl with hair wild, brown and curly. She was a happy child, so happy that when she tripped and skinned her knee she would laugh at her boo-boos instead of running to Mommy for a kiss, and she would run around in May singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer loudly and off-key. Oftentimes, it was just her and Mommy. And when she was a baby she loved and trusted Mommy, and over the years would often mourn for the person who her mother was.
The little girl didn’t know that Mommy’s own mommy was a monster to her. And she didn’t know that Mommy had grown up with a ball and chain attached to her foot, and that she fully believed every youngest daughter should at some point be so restrained. So while the wild-haired girl sang and grew, Mommy grew jealous and angry, and very very concerned that her daughter act rightly, and someday be bound in her own unhappiness.
Mommy started trying to attach restraints when the little girl was very young, not allowing her nourishment and reminding her daily she was too fat. As she aged, Mommy made the girl more and more of a house-servant. When the family was sick, it was the little girl’s job to care for them but when she was sick she was told to quit faking. When the family had a celebration, it fell to the girl to do much of the work from sweeping the house to food preparation and she could never sit down for tending all the guests without getting a mean-spirited scolding from Mommy and equally mean-spirited mocking from her older sister. Camping meant that her sister could go and play but that the little girl must stay behind to sweep and clean and cook. Any celebrations for the little girl were excused away to the neighbors, blaming the girl for bad behavior. What few events celebrated the little girl Mommy would sabotage.
Mommy tried everything to break the girl’s spirit and get that chain around her ankle. And although the girl grew very sad until her large blue eyes seemed to shine in every photograph with tears, Mommy never could get her chained, and though she poisoned the girl’s well of joy, the girl’s inner strength overcame Mommy’s meanness. The gods had looked down on Mommy and the wild little girl, and took pity on them both.
The Goddess Diana touched the little girl with hope, strength and freedom so pure that every time a chain came near her it simply broke. And while the girl grieved over the dear mother she’d lost in early childhood, Diana touched her and gave her the spirit to run free, to hunt and to be. When Mommy tried to call the wild girl a coward and runaway, Diana spoke within her mind and told her that she was a gift, and that freedom was true to her nature – not chains. While the little girl would do as she was told because she loved her mother, she would never wear the chains or step into the traps that her mother set for her. This would make Mommy very angry and she would scream and yell and use anything she could to hurt the girl, but still the chains would not take.
At last the girl came of age. So the little girl ran, and became a woman, and became strong. But Mommy kept the chain on her own foot and every so often would make a try at so weighing her down, even ruining the girl’s wedding and cursing the marriage with her attempts.
As the girl stood in the wreckage of her ruined castle, she called out to Diana, who gave one more gift to the girl: she entrusted her with domain over ghosts, and gave her the power to release them from and call them back to the underworld.
The little girl, angered at last, raised her hands and called for the spirits: Mommy’s mommy and her mother-in-law. Both had much to answer for to Mommy, and thus had much to answer to for her. But both had been beloved Grandmama in life to the girl. She told them clearly of her troubles and asked them both to make it right.
It was only after she finished speaking that she realized each woman also had a ball and chain around their foot. “Is this your punishment after life?” she asked.
“No,” said Mommy’s mommy. “We could not leave our chains in the life behind us, so we brought them with us into death.”
“Could no one break them? Could no one set you free?”
“Certainly someone could!” said the spirit of her father’s mother. The elder picked up a rock and struck through the chain on her foot; the entire device shattered like glass and then became dust. Before the little girl’s eyes, the woman became young, and began to dance gypsy steps.
The still-elder woman looked on with sorrow. “That’s the curse of it, dear. Only a Mommy can place those chains, and only the wearer can break them.”
Diana came from behind the spirits, spreading her arms to embrace them all. “Accept your gifts, darling girl – yours will always be true freedom, and with that comes the double edged sword that those who love you will be jealous of you instead. It is not your doing but their own.”
In sorrow, the little girl sent both ghosts back to the world below, where they would await her when it came her time to cross the River. And every day she ran free, and every day she grieved for her mother who could not love her because she was so willingly and fervently bound.