Changelings, Mythology Tells Us, Prefer Not To Wear Shoes

What you see here, loyal people, is the most beautiful child who ever lived.  Look at the light in those eyes; her angelical, delicate features.  Look at the way she is pointing one finger, as if to say “That is the way they went, the creatures in the feathered chariot who came and left me here.”  See her sweet pensiveness, how she does yet know what she is doing here, and is perhaps a little frightened, but brave and determined to learn.

She rescued every injured creature, including the smallest of mice, and laughed like sudden sunshine in winter.  Once, and I have told this story before (it is true, you can believe me) she was in the second grade and our mother was pregnant for me.  Most Exquisite of All Babies heard in her deepest inner ear that our mother was in trouble, and she leapt from her desk and ran all the way home, to discover our kitchen on fire.

As a little girl her favorite film was Cyrano de Bergerac with Jose Ferrer, because merely a helpless child she wore the hat of the hero, with the plume of white feathers declaring loveliness is in our natures, or as Shakespeare would have it, not in our stars but in ourselves.  Her eyes were aquamarine and stayed that color, as her hair grew dark, then darker.  She wept at every broken blue bird’s egg on the sidewalk.  Our mother feared the world might be too much with her, and from this picture you can see:

If you asked Delonda today what happened to that baby, she will sigh and tell you the best answer she can give:  the elves wanted Lindy for themselves, so they snuck in in the night and left a changeling in her place.  Changelings are tricky things, because the change is impossible to see.  One day she loves you more than life itself, and the next moment she is telling you, her baby sister, at the age of five, to march into the den where your parents are watching television, and to shout at the tops of your lungs, “Oh yeah, well you can just go to hell!”  After my face had been reattached with glue and staples and arrowheads, she said through her hysterical glee, “God, that was perfect, let me think of something else, and this time really feel it.”  She had a poster on her bedroom wall, from Macbeth, I believe:  “If I could turn back the seeds of Time, and say which one would grow and which would not:  speak then to me who neither beg for fear your favors nor your hate.”  I might have that a bit skewed, but you get it.  I studied those lines for hours, like a collector at a toy collection who has heard there is a . . . one-in-a-million Toy Thing, and she can’t sleep or eat or hear the chatter of minions around her in the big barn at the State Fair because IT IS HERE, it is somewhere, and as Frankie Laine sang, Calling come to the deep where your sleep is without a dream.

Here’s how she taught me ride a bicycle without training wheels.  She put me on it, gave me a shove, walked back into the house and called one of her friends.

If I tried to speak to her she would say, “Whoa!  I don’t remember rattling your cage.”

She locked me outside on Halloween night with a rabid bat circling my hair.  (In all fairness, it would have lost the fight with my hair, no doubt about it.)

She loved to take my chin and turn me this way and that, and then announce, “You know, you might be a little bit cute if your head weren’t so crooked.  And your eyes weren’t crossed.  And if you were even slightly smarter than a cantaloupe.”

But this I consider her most glorious moment, the New Melinda, the Changeling whom the fairies loved so much they kept her.  Dear Delonda, who believed Happiness Was A Choice, very patiently kept a record on the Mooreland Free Fair hanging calendar of every day Melinda announced she was a bad mood.  Mom said, “Do you see here?”  And on every day of every month there an X.  With a single day left in September, Melinda took a pen and crossed out the last day, too.  “No use stopping a good thing,” she said, as she walked away.

And yet her kind, long-suffering husband recently said, with the sort of sigh reserved when all hope is lost, “Don’t even ask what would happen if you and I were drowning and had just one life jacket.  It would read ‘Goodbye, Wayne,’ as she tossed it to you.”

Consider it mutual, Adored and Drowning Sister.

p.s.  I have considered writing an entire book about her, but when I mentioned it she said, “Haven’t you made enough money off my fat ass?”

Published in: on August 26, 2008 at 12:16 am  Comments (23)  


  1. Oh, please write the book!

  2. Oh Kathi Kathi Kathi. If you met Melinda, even the once, you would shout, “Run, Canteloupe Head, run! Try to uncross your eyes enough to see the road and save yourself; I’ll get the horses out of the burning barn!”

    Hand to God: this one time? A certain person made her a bit tetchy and she picked up a queen-sized mattress and threw it over her head at him, pinning him to the wall long enough to go get a hammer. THAT could have ended in tears, believe you me. She’s calmed down A LOT since then, mostly because of the lobotomy.

    Oh blessed little infant tiny Savior in the straw, protect me now and at the hour of my death, which doth approacheth me. Amen.

  3. I agree…I think you should write the book. You would make millions. With your humor and Lindy at your disposal….it would be a terrific book. Big seller!

    Love you all!

  4. This from Julie, who knows her! But Julie speaks with the tongues of angels, and believes I am protected by God because I am the mother of her niece. And if you knew the niece you too would think SOMETHING was quite pleased with me.


  5. my whole life i longed for a big sister. but that’s ALL OVER now. thank you for putting a stake in the heart of one of my FINAL illusions. and yet i long to meet her and have her assasinate my character and appearance in one swift blow.

  6. my whole life i longed for a big sister. but that’s ALL OVER now. thank you for putting a stake in the heart of one of my FINAL illusions. and yet i long to meet her and have her assassinate my character and appearance in one swift blow.

  7. I had a brother who could have been a changeling… never thought about it before now. And yes, I’m hoping to make lots of money off his (now departed) ass…. and yes, it’s a strange dichotomy, loving these changelings, isn’t it? I won’t write an entire book about him, but he’s a major player in my memoir-in-progress, which was very much inspired by Zippy and Couch. Looking foward to meeting you in Oxford on September 8!

  8. Susan, if only you could hear the stories of Miss Finnamore Cooper’s (see above) brother. Sometimes she’ll send me things he does just in the form of listicle, just a LIST, and I will lie down on the floor and weep and bang my head and have seizures of laughter. Oh yes, DO write that memoir. Do it for Suzanne. Do it for all of us.

  9. Haven, I know how you suffered and it pangs me, but as the oldest of four I too had some evil tricks up my all comes back to bite you though, doesn’t it? I told my sisters they were adopted, but swore them to secrecy as it would hurt my mother to bring it up. fast forward to now and my youngest is adopted. I have threatened his older siblings great bodily harm if they ever tell him he was adopted and he is black and we are not but still….I think I can pull it off.

  10. I knew there had to be an explanation. However at times she looked very angelic in your first 2 books
    I wonder if the elves let her make a cameo apperance at times

    It was was exquisite that she put you on a bike gave you a shove, walked back into the house and called one of her friends. My god how wonderful.

    I did not have it as easy as Melinda bing a male and having a little sister by 2 years I could only think of hitting as a way to release my fierce aggressions against her.
    She would tease I would hit, she would tell and I would be in trouble with my Dad.
    You didn’t seem to get the same protection as my sister did of course I was a boy. I needed the creativity that Melinda has it would have saved ne major trouble.

  11. Haven wrote: Look at the way she is pointing one finger, as if to say “That is the way they went, the creatures in the feathered chariot who came and left me here.”

    Paul [sine_30] opines: Nah. I teach in a public school. That’s a nascent gang sign: “Take your best shot an’ then I’m gonna sweep ya with my MAC-10.”

    I hope this helps.

  12. Caryl, I am so sorry but the idea that you don’t tell your youngest brother he’s adopted when he’s black and you’re white is so funny I am snorting and crying and my arms and legs have gone all akimbo. Oh my god, I can’t take it, you are killing me. OH MY GOD.

  13. killing you in a good way or a bad way??? And he is only two so we have yet to see if my plan works.

  14. p.s. the black baby is my youngest not my youngest brother which would be even funnier as he is 40.

  15. And Steve Martin made the film…
    Well, in reverse.
    (Cut to scene of him picking up Lawrence Welk on the radio, having a revelation and dancing through the sharecropper’s shack crowing “This… is the music of MY PEOPLE!!!”)

  16. You know I walked away from the computer and thought, this sounds suspiciously like The Jerk but it was already out there and you know what they say, once its online its online..

  17. Killing me in a good way, and thank heavens he’s only two. Children are not only born color-blind, they can change races like chameleons, or those soul-animals in THE GOLDEN COMPASS. I know this for certain because when my middle child, Obadiah, began pre-school he was the only white child in his class, and his teacher was a militant former basketball player who had taken up politics and toddlers. Obadiah’s two best friends were named Thelonious and Q’uienoka. One day I picked him up and he said, “You wanna know sumpin? The POE-leese can stop you for NUTTIN.” That was one of the happier days of my life. I said, “You’re doggone right, they can.”

  18. Okay now its my turn to flail myself across the room. Is that a word, flail,because I do it alot.

  19. all that i have to add to this discussion is that i feel… DEPRIVED… deprived and destitute that i do not know either Delonda or Melinda. no matter what good things may come to me in life… i will always feel this to be a great, great loss.

  20. Believe me: if you read ZIPPY and/or COUCH, you know Delonda and Melinda. I mean, you’ll never get the extra special pleasure of being pinched by Melinda, or hearing Delonda teach Shakespeare, but you’ll come very close to them. Really they should be public figures, like the Poet Laureates, who travel around and be themselves so everyone can be happy.

  21. I’m not sure who I want to meet more, Melinda or you! Actually, I don’t need to meet either. I can just sit behind you in a high-backed restaurant booth and eavesdrop.

  22. Oh, hey speaking of a high-backed restaurant booth? Here’s a funny trait of Melinda’s! She can ALWAYS say the worst thing at the wrong time. Once when she and her husband owned funeral homes she called a man about his long-outstanding bill, and when he said he had no intention of paying, she got that ice-cold Lindy voice and said, “Oh, I perfectly understand. And I assume you too will appreciate it when we dig your mother’s body up and dump it on your lawn.”

    But here’s the restaurant story. We were sitting in Elmo’s diner here in Durham, which has high-backed booths, and we’d been chatting away, when the woman behind us turned and said, “I’m sorrry, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I heard you’re from Indiana and so am I.” My sister said, charmingly, “Really? Which town?” The woman said Middletown or some name like that and Melinda said, “Oh what a nice town. I really like it there. Except for — —-, who is the meanest white woman I’ve ever met in my life.” The woman froze, and then said in a dignified way, “That would be my mother.” Melinda just threw up her hands and said, “OF COURSE IT IS.”

  23. Haven Haven Haven, where on earth do you find those words and string them together so classically???

    I disappeared since then beyond-yonder when the first book of your new club, “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” was put up for read (nothing like a deadline to get on a mission; called the library & picked it right up). Went back to the blog, looking all over for that thread again, to no avail (even wrote your webmaster…until I declared operator error, as usual), and saw ya’ll decided to do Solace instead.

    Suffice that I had already begun APOM (Solace waiting patiently on deck in renewal already) decided you’d have to go on without me this time around. I’m at the VW Beetle debacle simultaneously wondering “where is Owen at this moment, and WHAT is going through his head,” as the beetle is upside down on the marble floor!! I’m also chomping to see what more your bloggers have written about him and the book.

    Like many others, I have a full-time job, a part-time job (and a quarter time job), 2 kids, no hubby (but incredibly helpful parents) so my reading fever gets an unfortunate back burner squeezed in here ‘n there and rarely can I block a whole day anymore. Too old for the al’nighters…I pay behind the 8-ball should I run with that idea!

    All this to say I wasn’t keeping tabs with your blogs since my interjectory vote to help persuade you to tell us more about your life and family (from your sister’s round about perspective this time..somethin’ like that).

    So here I am searching the internet again for another misplaced thread: the ghost of a new “myspace” page (my 16 yr daughter is mortified that I would even attempt to “go there”) when I saw that HAVEN KIMMEL RESPONDED TO MY PLEA TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT HER SISTER,MELINDA!!! AAAAAA!!! RUN CANTALOPE HEAD…UNCROSS YOUR EYES….SAVE YOURSELF!! I’ve seen others on your blog respond with such excitement that you responded to them, but it’s a wow’ing experience firsthand, and so very very cool.

    I’ve been a voyeur of your blog’s prose til now, the way others here have started…not feeling qualified to play, but what the heck. Everyone is so hilarious in their own poignant ways…as well as forgiving (thank you so much). So though I long, too long, to find the right words, I can’t resist the membership to be among you.

    In writing, emails, letters, no matter, when one responds to me, it seems I must alway have the “proverbial last word”. In other words, should you be inspired to write to me, you should know that a response is forthcoming (blog responses may take longer, but are inevitable).

    And if the mattress event is true Melinda history, we have a lot in common; and if your prayer for protection at the hour of your surrender, is indeed a white flag, I say YIPPEE KAI YAY (sp?).

    I adore your bellygut laughter and rolling/flailng on the floor tears-a-streamin’ descriptions. We connect this way too, because I roll along with you when you’re laughing, and when you cry, “my tears will fill an ocean” (Carly Simon) too.

    Your response to my one-liner I take as an invitation to play now and again. I’m counting the days til Thanksgiving (4 days OFF EVERYTHING and on to O.C. MD for the holiday with the whole bloomin’ fam damily). This translates into several 4 hour blocks of reading for me.

    I’ll dream big and hope (in a bitter sweet way) that peering into the life of Owen Meany and Co. comes to a close, and by the end of that weekend, I’ll overcome the Solace of Leaving Early, see what everyone here has to say, and certainly learn quite a bit more.

    Between then, I’ve got some blog peer[ing]/review to do since August 26th to catch up. I can’t dance fast enough…so I’ll continue to dance to my rhythm…and will check in on ya a bit more frequent.

    Haven, thanks so much for letting us get connected to you & your wonderful family here where you really and truly visit. I hope to untie my tongue here and find the novel writer in me…put the letter writer to rest.

    Don’t know whether to get a screen name “big dreamer” or “canteloupe head”. Surely there’s more to the latter than I know, but either way, “that’s CLASSIC” (as my 10 yr. old son would say). See ya ’round the bend. You’re the best!

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