Once, a baby was born at dawn as salmon clouds stretched across the sky. From the hospital window, as the morning sun fell upon the newborn, its rosy beams left a crimson "V" upon her forehead. Her mother, who had studied botany but preferred painting plants to cataloguing them, held her close and whispered her name to her. Melinda, a name of honey and summer.
As the girl grew, her white-blonde hair fair as flax, she combined her physician father's love of facts with her artist mother's fascination with beauty. When her mother went looking for her, she could find her as often with her nose tucked into a book as running barefoot through the grass. With her wild gold-beam hair tousled, her corduroy pants continually torn at the knee, she was clumsy but brilliant. Her mother put her in ballet class to learn grace.
Inevitably, a child of such rare gifts attracts notice, and so it was that Melinda became, in one year, both her teacher's favorite student and a bully's special target. The mother found her after school one day, gulping back sobs on the front porch swing, and she pulled the story out of her. The girl spun a tale of betrayal and cruelty, with one of her closest friends turning against her. Each day, she confessed, the older girl tormented her on the way back from school, calling her names and snatching the hat off her head.
The mother knew first-hand about such things, having been extraordinarily different from birth, in ways she dared not admit for fear of small-town wrath. She thought back to her mother, who loved to talk of the wee folk with a twinkle in her eye, and she told her daughter a story.
"Do you know where you got your birthmark?" she asked her weeping daughter. The girl gave her a pained look but listened, softly sobbing. "A red 'V' on the forehead is said to be the mark of the faeries. That's how they mark their children when they bring them to our world." Melinda's mouth puckered at the edges in the beginnings of a smile. "You see, they sometimes like to leave their babies here so that they can learn our ways. Some people call them changelings, exchanged for a newborn baby so they can be raised by loving human parents."
Melinda wore a bemused look on her face, her gray-blue eyes mirthful behind her large pink plastic glasses. "But you said you held me at birth and I had the birthmark then."
The mother shrugged. "Who knows? Perhaps they switched you in the womb. The point is, you will always be different, my love. That's part of the very fabric of your DNA. But you are also kind and smart and fearless, and those qualities bring a special sort of magic to everything you do. You may feel sometimes as if you don't belong here, that our human ways don't make sense. Just remember you are here to learn, to appreciate what beauty this world possesses, and to grow strong. One day, you will learn how to use your gifts for the good of any world in which you choose to live."
By now, the girl's tears had entirely dried. The two embraced, and the mother left to prepare dinner. Peeking out the diamond-shaped window while waiting for the pork chops to finish cooking, she spied her daughter, cross-legged under a tree, writing furiously.
You want to know what happened next? The girl grew up to conquer trolls, to explore ancient worlds, to chronicle the lives of herself and her family. Her most important achievement, though, was bringing you into the world. A boy as bouncy as a rabbit, with golden brown eyes as round as glass marbles. She kissed you your name at birth and smiled at the red "V" on your forehead.
My elf-child, I was the girl. The mother was your grandmother, whose ashes I wear in a spun glass pendant, blue as her eyes. Never forget: this world may sometimes seem perplexing, frustrating or even cruel. Please be patient with all of this human madness. You are here to learn and to grow.
For those who don't know, my middle name is, indeed, Melinda.