Tuesday, February 27, 2007, my mother, Barbara Ann Hess Hershey Becker, turns 80 years old. I tried to think of the best gift I could give the woman who has surrounded me with unconditional love from the day I was born, and decided what I would love to give her is the gift of her own story—shared with the divine moms of DivineCaroline.com.
When she was a high school student, my mother wrote a children’s story called “The Little Gold Key.” She used to tell it to me and my brother Henry and then to all five of us children, her thirteen grandchildren, and, now, her four great grandchildren.
Mother tells the story in a way that mesmerizes her audience. So, if you choose to read this story to your child, you can’t just read it. You need to become each of the characters, especially the man no bigger than a raindrop who speaks in a very high, squeaky voice. Put love in your voice and make believe the whole thing is actually happening, and, I promise, your child will grow up to have a vivid imagination and the ability to help make his or her own dreams come true.
The Little Gold Key
By Barbara Ann Hershey Becker
Abby and Richie were cousins who loved to stay and play at Grandma’s house.
One warm, sunny day Abby had an idea. Richie thought it would be fun too, and so they asked Grandma. Grandma’s eyes sparkled as she listened to the secret idea.
“All right,” she said, smiling.
Abby and Richie jumped up and down with joy. Grandma packed a lunch for them and helped them across the road.
“Have fun!” she called as she watched them walk through the meadow down by the creek. “I’ll be waiting for you to come home.”
Abby and Richie enjoyed their lunch and had fun splashing in the creek. Then they decided to play hide-and-go-seek. Abby walked deeper and deeper into the woods, looking for Richie. She hunted and called. Then she stopped.
“Richie,” she screamed as loud as she could. “If you don’t come, I’ll have to go home without you and tell Grand. . . .” Before she could finish the sentence, she heard Richie answering her.
“Abby! I wanna show you something!”
Abby forgot her anger and ran towards Richie.
“See!” Richie exclaimed.
Abby looked puzzled. “It’s just a big tree in the woods.”
“Yes, but . . .” said Richie. “. . . but around on the other side, it’s hollow, and there’s something inside the tree. See this door?”
“Yes,” said Abby excitedly. “Look, Richie, here’s a little gold key.” She grabbed it off a hook in the tree trunk and stuck it inside the keyhole in the door.
Together they opened the lock, pushed the door open, crawled inside, and found themselves in a small room full of mirrors and panels.
“Oh, won’t this make a neat playhouse!” said Abby.
But Richie, who was looking at the row of buttons on the wall, said, “Do you think we would go up to the top of the tree, like an elevator in a store, if we pressed the button?”
Just like that, he pushed the blue button, and immediately they felt themselves moving up—right out of the treetop and into the sky.
“Oh!” said Richie. “Ohhhhhhhhh! I think we’re on a rocket, and maybe we’re going to the moon.”
“I don’t want to go to the moon,” Abby cried. “I want to go home to Grand. . . .”
Before they could say anything else their speeding room landed.
Once again Abby opened the door with the key. They both crawled out into a very strange placed indeed, with mountains and valleys that looked like puffy white marshmallows. Through the middle of the white mounds was a path.
As they walked along, hand in hand, they saw a tiny little man not much bigger than a large raindrop. He had a smiling face with twinkling eyes, and his clothes were the colors of the rainbow. He sparkled all over like dew drops in the sunshine.
“Abby and Richie,” he said in a tiny high-pitched voice (and how he knew their names, I’ll never know). “You are the first children to discover the blue rocket in the hollow tree on your Grandmother’s farm. We have it there for our rain elves to travel back and forth from the earth to the clouds. You are on a cloud, and we have a rain factory here. Come with me, and I will take you through the factory.”
“But—but—but, we must hurry,” Abby said. “Grandma is waiting for us.”
“O.K.,” the rain elf said, and off they went down some steps into a factory where lots of little rain elves were busily mixing hydrogen and oxygen to make water and funneling it into a huge tank in the bottom of the cloud. The tank contained a huge sprinkling system.
Then the little rain elf turned to the children. “Come,” he said, “it’s time for me to go home to my family. I’ll take you to the path that will lead you to the blue rocket. The rocket has been filled with fuel and made ready for your trip home. When you get to the rocket, use your key to get inside. Richie, be sure to press the green button, and you will soon be at your grandmother’s farm.” With that rain elf disappeared, and the children were all alone.
As they hurried to the rocket, Abby asked Richie, “Do you have the little gold key?”
Richie looked at Abby. “No! Don’t you?”
“No,” said Abby. “I can’t find it. Oh, whatever will we do?”
They both began to cry. “Don’t cry, Richie. I’ll think of something,” Abby promised, smiling through her tears. “Richie, listen to me. My mother told me that it takes both the sun and rain to make a rainbow, and there’s the sun. . . . Richie, you stay right here. I’ll be right back.”
Abby went running to the rain factory as fast as her legs would take her. Once inside the factory, she pressed the button that regulated the sprinkling system, asking the rain elf on duty to please stop the rain after a little while.
Then she dashed outside, hurrying along the path to Richie. Sure enough, when she got there, a gorgeous rainbow appeared, and the middle of the bow arched right over the cloud where they were standing. Without thinking, Abby and Richie jumped on the rainbow.
Angels must have been guarding them, for they had an absolutely fantastic ride, sliding down the rainbow, and when they got to the end of the rainbow, guess where they were.
In Grandma’s back yard! And there was Grandma.
“Oh, my precious children,” she cried. “Where were you?”
“Grandma!” two voices cried at once. “We had a ride on a blue rocket, and we landed on a cloud, and we saw a rain factory, and the little rain elves. Oh, Grandma, they were so cute, and we slid down a rainbow because we couldn’t find the little gold key.
“Grandma, did you know the rainbow ended in your back yard?
“Grandma, did you see the beautiful rainbow?
“Grandma, did you see us?
“Grandma, don’t you believe us?”
Grandma looked at them. She wanted to believe them. She really did.
“Tomorrow,” Richie said, “we’ll show you.”
So the next day Grandma went with Richie and Abby to the woods, but they weren’t able to find the big tree that was hollow. And even if they could have found the tree, they could never have another ride on the blue rocket because, you see. . . .
the little gold key was lost forever!