I don’t feel up to writing a post, mostly because my head isn’t “fully on” yet, (I’ve managed to be jetlagged for two time zones at once) and I’m not up to writing the Witch’s Daughter chapter that’s ridiculously overdue.
I’ll try to do it tomorrow or tonight, around the promo post which, yes, I’m aware is ALSO overdue.
Look, the last two weeks were excessively 2020, okay? I’m trying to recover.
So I’m going to tell you what I was thinking of, apropos nothing (as far as I know) this morning.
I was thinking about Faustina, the elastic lady.
Well, it goes something like this: my family has a tradition of scaring unruly children into behaving.
I’m sure it will shock EVERYONE here that I was an unruly — though more pain in the neck, rule lawyering — kid. Actually that’s how I managed to get kicked out of kindergarten. I kept rule-lawyering the teacher, and not just about my issues (I was actually fairly well behaved, as I’d hide in a corner and read) but everyone the teacher tried to punish. Mostly because she had a tendency to pick on kids who didn’t know how to defend themselves.
After bribes of candy (I hate hard candy, and that’s what she offered) and a glow in the dark rosary (who can resist that you ask? Well, I did) had failed, she took me by the hand, walked me back home, and handed me to grandma with the words “Next year, we’ll have to take her. Until then the law doesn’t say she has to be at school. Keep her at home, please.”
Anyway, as you can imagine, since I was — mostly — impervious to bribes and kept coming up with creative ways to argue why I should be allowed to do whatever I wanted, my family had to come up with something that would …. oh, make me go to bed on time, or shut my mouth for a minute or two.
And that something was Faustina, the elastic lady. The weird thing is that I remember nothing about this woman.
She was one of the peddlers who made the rounds of the village one day a week, and sold — I presume — not just elastic and lace, but probably other sewing notions. I presume like the other peddlers she did the rounds of other villages on the other days. (On Sundays we got the fun peddlers: cookies, candy, soda and potato chips. But during the week we got the Olive Man (who also sold oils) and the fish vendors, and probably others I don’t remember at all. I remember the olive man, because his donkey wore a hat, and because if I had been good I got to give the donkey a carrot. And the fish man because if I had been good, I got a half dozen clams to cook on top of the wood stove. Look, life was very boring, okay?)
BTW it’s a measure of how much my life has changed that I can’t IMAGINE how someone could make a living, no matter how small, selling sewing notions (and I presume elastic was the greater part of her business, since she was called Faustina dos Elasticos.) Maybe fish, or oil since both were major components of our diet. BUT elastic and notions? I can’t picture it. Yes, things were more expensive, and buying these from stores involved going to the city,which cost bus or train fare (and my mom did, because she was a professional, but even she bought from Faustina of the elastics now and then.) But still. This woman was on foot, and sold only what she carried. How can she have made a living?
It’s unsettling to realize that my worldbuilding might suffer from not really understanding/being able to picture such limited economies.
I have no idea why Faustina scared me. I’m going to presume she did, or my family wouldn’t have seized on it, nor invented such an outrageous story about her. But I don’t remember her at all. It’s possible she had a squint, and a half a century later, I have the impression she had a weird hamster voice.
Kids are merciless about “strangers” — which is why all the stupid stories about how babies are racist are ridiculous. Of course children shy from strangers. That was part of remaining alive and not becoming dinner when humans lived in family-bands — and find things strange that wouldn’t even register for adults, mostly because they have such a limited experience of the world. They don’t know how weird things and people can be and still fall in “the range of normal reality.” (Now I think about it, that’s the problem with all the woke superannuated children. Having been raised with a narrow idea of what’s normal, and carefully indoctrinated to distrust anything and anyone new, they can’t imagine the different without assuming it’s “evil.”)
One thing I’m almost sure of, (though I can’t verify it unless I call mom, and if I call her out of the blue RIGHT NOW and ask her to verify it, she’ll think I’ve lost my mind, even more than she already thinks it): is that Faustina walked with a weird gait, probably because of having one leg shorter than the other, or perhaps she’d had polio as a child, or something.
Why am I sure of that? Because I think whatever she looked like/moved like scared the heck out of me, and I started hiding from her.
Having glomed onto this my family — honestly, probably mom because she’s the only one I remember telling me that — told me that Faustina had legs made out of elastic, and could stretch to any length, and that she specialized in reaching into houses and grabbing naughty children, which she took away in her sack.
I remember being terrified of her, to the point that mentioning her name would get good behavior from me.
I don’t remember when I stopped being scared, or when she stopped making the rounds of sales (though I think it was before I was six or so, when we moved to the new house and the lady down the street opened a newspapers/magazines/notions and tobacco store operating out of her front window. (I can’t remember her name, but her village nickname was “of the tobacco” and her virtue was that she sold whenever you knocked on her window, so during the hours the general store (which sold tobacco) was closed.
And I can honestly say I didn’t think of her again till this morning.
Which is how kids grow, I suppose. I mean, we scared older son into compliance by telling him if he didn’t behave the trashmen would take him away. This was after an incident when we’d forgotten to put our trash out, and the collectors banged on our back gate and screamed and cursed, scaring the little two year old playing in the yard.
For the next three or four years, we could get compliance by picking up the phone to call the garbage collectors. I don’t know when he stopped being scared, but my guess is when he was rational enough that we could argue for compliance without having to scare him (and we only scared him when he was a danger to himself, the pets or his brother.) And unlike what our friends told us, he’s not scared of garbage collectors, and is perfectly civil and well behaved to them.
I’m not particularly scared of people who sell elastic, either, I must say. Or even lace and notions.
BUT I realized that in a weird place in my mind, there is this dark figure carrying a sack, who shambles down the old village street at twilight, before jumping up on elastic legs, to snatch a naughty child through a second floor window.
And yes, I realize she must appear in that guise in some future story, poor woman.