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The Queen’s Querulous Quest

The Queen’s Querulous Quest

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Once upon a time there was a queen who lived in a lovely kingdom. There was nothing the queen did not have. Her closets were full of clothes, her jewelry box was full of jewels and her shelves were full of books. You get the idea.

But still she felt there was something missing in her life.

She decided to embark upon a quest to find what was missing. Something was missingThis is not as easy as it sounds, as they did not have GPS quest-finders in her kingdom. And it is pretty hard to find something if you don’t know what it looks like.

First she made a list of everything she had. This was a very long list, and took a long time to compile. It consisted mostly of actual items in her possession.

Then she made a list of what she didn’t have. This made her really think and ponder, for it didn’t seem there was anything she didn’t already own.

But she struggled and thought, and finally came up with a very short list. Here is what she thought she was missing:

  • Laughter
  • Joy
  • True happiness

Armed with this list, the queen decided she would now go in search of what she was missing.

Not being too sure of directions, the queen decided to stick close to home at first. So she went out to the garden of the palace, where she saw a young child playing.

“Who are you?” the queen asked.

“I am Matilda, daughter of your housemaid,” the little girl answered.

“What are you doing here?” asked the queen.

“I am watching the ants as they build their castles and work underground.”

“Why?”

“Because watching the ants makes me feel much bigger and more important than such little creatures, and I can just stomp them if I get bored.”

“Hmm,” said the queen. “Guess I have to go further than the castle to discover what I am missing.”

The queen decided to leave the castle grounds. Going out a “What were you laughing about?”back gate, she watched as some children from the village were playing ball and hitting the ground with their sticks.

“Why are you hitting the ground with your sticks?” asked the queen.

“To frighten the younger children who want to play with us,” was the quick response.

Once again, the queen had not found laughter, joy or true happiness.

Tired from her day outside, the queen returned to the castle and slowly walked up the stairs. She decided to stop at the nursery and say goodnight to the little princess and prince, who were cared for by their nanny.

As she approached the doorway, she heard the children whispering. She stood outside their door, struggling to hear what they were saying. Other than giggles and whispers, she really could not make out any words. She entered the room, and the children looked up expectantly.

“What were you laughing about, children?” the queen asked.

“Nothing special,” they replied.

“I have been searching for laughter and joy and happiness all day,” said the queen, “and I can’t find it anywhere. When I came up the stairs, I heard you laughing. Can’t you tell me what you were laughing about?”

The children looked at each other and then at their mother. “Mother,” they said, “laughter and joy and happiness are all around.”

“All I saw today were children who wanted to feel superior by watching anthills, or children who wanted to feel powerful by frightening away other children. But I didn’t find happiness anywhere.”

“But did you notice the beautiful flowers blooming in the garden? Did you see birds soaring in the sky? Did you see puppies rolling on the grass? Did you see a baby touching his mother’s face?”

“No, I was specifically looking for laughter, joy and happiness. You don’t expect me to pay attention to all those little details, do you?”

“Oh, Mother,” said the wise children, “happiness, laughter and joy are not things to collect and put away on your shelves like your books and jewelry and clothing. They must be felt each day. You need to open your eyes to the world, and not view everything as an object to acquire. Come spend a day with us, and truly see laughter, joy and happiness.”

The queen realized that perhaps her children had a point. So She watched the children run and playthe very next day, she came into their room and told the nanny to take the day off. She watched the children run and play, laugh and sing, color and dance (and sometimes fight and cry; after all, they were children).

At the end of the day, she was exhausted. “Now do you see, Mother?” asked the children.

“Oh yes,” said the queen. “Now I see how hard it is to find laughter, joy and happiness. I am going to have to work very hard to get these items on my list from now on.”

The children looked at each other and shook their heads. They didn’t think their mother really understood the message. But they agreed that if they could spend a little more time with her each day, perhaps they could show her over time that indeed she would find what she was searching for so diligently.

Susan Schwartz is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is president of Davka Corporation, and lives in Chicago.
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