I heard my mother say this to my young niece when she refused to give my mom a kiss good night. In that moment I no longer felt crazy. My mom had just given me the greatest gift that she could give…validation of her demand to be loved.
Hearing my mom’s accusation to a child, other than me, that didn’t give her what she wanted assured me I wasn’t making “it” up. I hadn’t imagined that it was my job to please her or make her feel important. I saw second hand how she withdrew her love. If mom didn’t feel special, ain’t no one gonna feel special. I crafted a childhood career of getting what I needed by giving her what she wanted. My early training in the art of manipulation.
I wrote her wonderful mommy poems rhyming my way into her good graces. I decoupaged them to wooden plaques so she could hang them on the kitchen wall to remind herself of how well I played the game with her. I made her look good with my high grades, my get along attitude and involvement in all the right activities. I was who she wanted me to be…unless I wasn’t.
I had this other side of me that just couldn’t fly right. I argued on behalf of animal rights as my family went hunting. I refused to wear animal fur (so my mom told me the saleswoman had assured her it was fake fur encircling my hooded face. I soon caught on and had yet another reason to distrust her). I stood against the war in Vietnam to my Major in the Army dad and Commander in the Coast Guard uncle. I railed against their bigotry and knocked on the door of the only African American family living in my neighborhood to sell them Christmas cards. I developed healing rituals which I practiced in attempt to transform this family that made little sense to me. I was always fighting fights for the underdog.
In these moments, I was a little witch too.
It was no coincidence that one of my favorite books as a kid was, Little Witch, by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. I still have it on my bookshelf. Little Witch was different from her family. They didn’t understand her. They didn’t like her for the same reason. So she found ways to secure herself in her self, despite her lack of belonging to her own flesh and blood.
This story gave me hope as a youngster. I wasn’t alone. I identified with Little Witch feeling like the outcast. I understood her many attempts to fit in with her family, as well as, her refusal to give up on herself. Little Witch bolstered my courage to fly in the face of my family.
I went on to read many books about young witches. I came to identify with them. Still do. I assume, except for the wicked witch of the west-who, in the book Wicked, was simply misunderstood-witches are intelligent, thoughtful, insightful women that see life a bit differently than most. In fact the word ‘witch’ means wise woman, or did many moons ago.
In 2nd grade I won the Halloween costume contest wearing a mother made witch’s costume. It was great, complete with a big pointy hat donning strategically placed patches of plaid fabric. As the winner, I lead my class in the elementary school Halloween parade. I belonged. A fleeting state of being for me. Little did my mom know what paradox she created sewing me into that costume. She was too busy letting everyone know she made the costume.
When Jena was in middle school she and her friends decided to trick or treat as the Wizard of Oz characters. One guess who Jena wanted to be…I was so proud. My Little Witch. So I proceeded to make her a Wicked Witch of the West costume. It was great, complete with a witchy hat full of black tulle trailing down her back. I stayed up very late the night before she needed it to finish it. I was on a mission. I knew exactly what I was doing. I was passing the broom to my daughter.
But what I admire most about witches?
Witches don’t kiss anyone they don’t want to kiss!
You Little Witch!