Since my daughter was a very small child, I’ve told her fairy tales at night. And even though she is now almost a teenager, she still likes me to tell her the occasional story. What follows is one that I recently pulled out, that will be alluded to in my book Thaddeus Squirrel (coming Fall, 2011). It’s based on a fable I heard many years ago. I wish I could tell you where it originated, but I honestly can’t remember.
There’s a woman who lives in a walled community. She resides in a nice home with a rolling back yard. It has a green lawn dotted by bushes and trees, but to either side of her yard are walls. They are tall, solid-looking walls stretching high into the sky, painted a dull shade of gray.
The woman is so used to the walls being there that she doesn’t think much about them. Until one day, when she hears a noise coming from the other side. At first she thinks it’s her imagination, but when she listens more closely she definitely hears something. She detects people talking…children laughing… even a dog barking.
This raises her curiosity. She had never thought about people being on the other side of the wall. She wonders who they are and what they’re like. So she decides to get out a ladder to look over the other side. She goes into her garage and pulls out the biggest ladder that she can find. She places it against the wall and climbs up it, only to find the ladder does not reach the top.
She has another idea. She will walk around the wall. She has never tried this before, as the wall stretches as far as her eye can see, but she packs a few snacks and gets on her way. She walks for a very long time, until the sun is low in the sky, yet there is still no end to the wall in sight. So she turns around and heads home before it gets too dark.
The next day she has a new idea. She will bang her way through the wall using a large hammer. She locates a sledgehammer and begins hammering at the wall. Whack! Whack! Whack! But the wall is too strong and all that happens is a few flakes of plaster begin to peel off it. She has barely made a dent.
She sits in her yard, dejected. She again can hear the people talking and the children laughing from the other side. She looks at the wall, thick and tall and gray and wonders why it was ever put there in the first place. What purpose did it really serve? She wishes it were gone.
As she stares at the wall’s great gray expanse, she notices something sticking out from the it. It’s a bump. Funny, she hadn’t noticed the bump before. She walks up closer and discovers that it isn’t a bump at all, it actually looks more like a door knob. As she gets closer she notices something else—the faint outline of a door.
She touches the knob, then places her whole hand around it and turns. At the same time she pulls ever so slightly, and to her amazement she finds it is a door after all. She opens it and walks to the other side. The people there greet her like a long lost friend.
She wonders, had the door actually been there all along? No matter, she thinks, she has made it to the other side.
The moral of the story? Funny, but I had one take on it—and my daughter had a completely different one, that made perfect sense. I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.