This is a season for stories both old and new. We tell old tales we love, and new stories become traditions.
I’m continuing the Vampire Maman Christmas Story Fest with this tale from my friend Mandy White. “We’re Not so Different” can also be found in the WPaD anthology Tinsel Tales (click here for link).
We’re Not so Different
By Mandy White
My daughter was clearly upset when she arrived home from school. Crystal tossed her pink, sparkly book bag into the corner and gave it a kick.
“Bad day, honey?” I asked.
She didn’t answer at first. Instead, she ducked her chin and pouted as only a twelve-year-old can.
I waited. Finally she looked at me.
“Is it true?” she demanded.
“Is what true, sweetie?”
“That we’re going to Hell?”
“What? Where on Earth did you get that idea?”
Crystal mumbled something unintelligible.
“Becky Bullock! I hate her so much!” she ranted. “Just because her father’s a minister she acts like she’s God and treats everyone else like dirt!”
“Now, I hardly believe God would treat anyone like dirt, honey. Come here and talk to me.” I sat on the sofa, shoving aside a pile of towels I had been folding so she could sit beside me. Crystal plopped into the cushion, arms folded, glaring at the wall across the room.
“Why exactly does Becky think we are going to Hell and she is not?” I asked her. I suspected I already knew the answer, but I wanted to hear it from her classmate’s perspective as well as hers.
“Because of my report,” she said.
“Yeah, we were all supposed to do an essay about holiday traditions and I did mine about the Christmas tree. I didn’t know the stupid teacher was going to make us read them in front of the class.”
I nodded knowingly. I saw where this was going. “Go on,” I prompted.
“So anyway, my essay was about the Christmas tree, and how it’s Pagan in origin. Like the story Grandma told us, about how in the old days it was a custom to bring a live tree inside the house to symbolize life and good luck and all that junk.”
“You actually said it that way?” I laughed.
“Not really,” she went to her book bag and withdrew a crumpled piece of paper and handed it to me.
I relaxed into the cushions to read the essay. I was impressed; it was quite good. Crystal explained how ancient Pagans believed evergreen trees had the power of eternal life because they stayed green through the dead of winter. During the winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, they adorned their homes with the boughs of evergreens in hopes that the magic of the trees would bring the sun back for another year. It was said that the ‘sun was born’ during the Solstice. Feasts and celebrations were also held during this time to keep people’s spirits high and fend off the starvation that threatened during the lean months.
It was clear that Crystal’s depiction of the pre-Christian roots of some holiday traditions had offended her classmate, who had no doubt learned a different story in her household.
“So, at lunchtime Becky and a bunch of her snotty friends corner me and start teasing me, telling me that my whole family is going to Hell. ‘Jesus is the reason for the season!’ she says to me. Then she starts calling me a witch and a Satanist and a h-heretic!” Crystal sniffled and began to cry.
“What did you say to them?” I asked.
“I called them a bunch of assholes and then I ran away.” She peeked warily up at me from beneath tearstained eyelashes, checking to see if she was in trouble.
I burst out laughing. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. The mental picture of Little Becky Bible-Thumper and her friends’ faces after my daughter called them assholes just wouldn’t leave, and try as I might, I couldn’t help cracking up. That’s my girl, I thought. Your Great-Grandmamma would have been proud.
“That wasn’t very nice of you to say that. And it wasn’t nice of them to make fun of you either,” I told Crystal, who had begun to giggle through her tears at my reaction. “But, you could have gotten yourself in trouble. Remember the old saying, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. Becky is entitled to her beliefs just as much as you are.”
“But Mom!” Crystal insisted, “She doesn’t have to be mean about it!”
“No, she doesn’t,” I agreed. I put my arm around my daughter and cuddled her close. “You remember all the stories Grandma used to tell? The ones about her ancestors?”
Crystal nodded. “Yeah, that’s where I got the one about the tree stuff.”
“Well, then you also remember that our family lineage goes way, way back, to long before Christianity was even thought of. Our kind has been through happy times, and there have been dark times as well. Many of our ancestors were persecuted by the church and burned at the stake for things as trivial as practicing herbal medicine, or for voicing their own beliefs, much as you did today.”
“Which is why they’re a bunch of assholes!” Crystal said.
“From your perspective, it may seem that way. Try to think outside the box for a moment. Christians have also been persecuted for their beliefs in the past. Jesus was executed for the ideals he taught. Look at the Jewish people, and think of all that they have been through, or the Native Americans. No matter which culture, which religion you look at, you will find some point at which those people were victimized because their beliefs were different from someone else’s.”
“So everyone gets bullied, no matter what they believe, then. That doesn’t make it right.” Crystal observed.
“No, it doesn’t. It’s not a question of right or wrong, good or evil. From our own personal perspective, each of us is right, and the Creator has given us many paths to choose from. What’s great about the times we live in is that we are no longer in fear of being slaughtered for our beliefs. Neither is Becky Bullock’s family, or Jimmy Goldberg’s. We live in a time when a Wiccan child like you can learn in the same classroom as Becky, Jimmy, and all the other children who come from different cultures and backgrounds. Opinions will always differ, but if God is perfect, as Becky’s father teaches, then all must be right in the Universe.”
“So how am I supposed to deal with Becky next time she calls me a Satanist? Put a hex on her, or just punch her in the eye?” Crystal asked.
“Neither!” I laughed. “What you put out there is what you will get back, threefold. To quote your grandmother, ‘Remember ye the law of three. For what ye do comes back to thee’. Or, to put it in terms Becky might understand, ‘Ask, and ye shall receive’. So, to answer your question, if you approach a situation expecting disharmony, you will encounter disharmony. If you go into it intending harmony, then that is what you will get back. Somebody famous once said, ‘Peace is achieved through understanding, not conflict.’ Remember that Becky is not so different from you. She deserves to be treated with the same tolerance for her beliefs that you expect for yours.”
“Fat lot you know about bullies, Mom. The whole, ‘walk away’ thing doesn’t always work. I may still have to punch her in the face, just warning you.”
“If walking away doesn’t work, then ask her how Jesus would have handled the situation. That might make her stop and think. You think about it too. How do you think Jesus have reacted?”
Crystal shrugged. “I guess Jesus would have turned the other cheek. Isn’t that what the Bible says? To love your enemies and stuff like that?”
“Exactly. Treat others with compassion, even those who oppose you. It’s what my mother taught me, and what I’ve always told you. Our beliefs are not much different from what Jesus taught.”
“But I don’t love Becky! I can’t stand her! She’s just so… mean to everyone. Especially me.”
“You don’t have to be her best friend or anything. All I’m saying is, think before you react. Negative reactions won’t result in peace. If that doesn’t work… well, be sure to ask your teachers for some homework if you get expelled.”
“Becky might get expelled, too,” Crystal commented, a hint of hope in her voice.
“See? I told you, you aren’t so different from each other.”
We giggled and snuggled on the sofa. The Christmas tree sparkled in the corner, the angel at the top smiling down at us as we gazed out the window at the falling snow.
Copyright © 2013 Mandy White
Thank you Mandy!
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman