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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Elephant in the Room (12/05/13)

TITLE: Biting Elephants
By Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom


“Good night, Mom.” Delainey kissed her mom as she headed toward the bedroom.

Mom watched her daughter walk down the hall; thoughts of the days when she tucked Delainey in and read her a story flooded her thoughts. Fighting back tears she called out, “Sleep tight; don't let the el-e-phants bite.”

Delainey spun around and rolled her eyes. “Seriously, Mom, I’m seventeen.”

Mom smiled. “I’m waiting…”

Shrugging her shoulders, Delainey walked over and held Mom’s hand. “It’s bedbuggies, not elephants.” Shaking her head she looked down at her mom. “How’d that tradition start anyway?”

Mom patted the couch and made room for Delainey to join her as she swallowed back tears. “It’s silly really. Until you had your surgeries to fix your cleft palate, there were many people who would stop and stare at you. For some reason they couldn't see past the deformity to see your beautiful hazel eyes or your sweet heart.”

Delainey snuggled closer to her mom. “Well, even you have to admit. I was a pretty scary-looking kid.”

“No, you weren't, you were beautiful. You had a glow about you that I've never seen in any other child.

"The first time we took you out among strangers was really heart-wrenching for your dad and me. A blanket of tension covered the room. People averted their gaze and turned their backs on us. There were a few kids who would point and whisper to their parents, but they were quickly hushed.

“Actually, I think I would have preferred if they had asked what was wrong. I could have explained it to them and tell them that even though your face looked different, you were just like them. You played with dolls and delighted in books. You even loved to sing along with Barney.”

Delainey snorted. “I never watched Barney!”

Mom brushed her hair out of her daughter’s eyes. “Oh, yes, you did. Maybe you sang off-key and danced off-beat, but you had a ball. You’ve always been like that–you enjoy life to its fullest.”

“Well, that still doesn't explain the biting elephants.” Delainey leaned in and her finger traced a tear flowing down Mom’s cheek. “Are you crying?”

Mom wiped the stray tears away. “I just don't know where the time went. You had so many health problems when you were born; I was terrified how it would affect you. Until they were able to get your heart condition under control, they couldn't operate to fix the cleft palate. I knew how cruel people could be.

"We only stayed at that first party for an hour. It was horrible. People would clear their throats, then make an excuse and busy themselves elsewhere. One Mom even yanked her daughter away when the little girl stopped to play with you. That was the final straw.

“Dad and I made our excuses and high-tailed it to the car. As soon as we were gone, I started to cry. I just didn't understand how people could be so dense. Not one person talked about it or asked me any questions. Your dad made a comment about the elephant in the room.

“That night when I tucked you in, after singing 'Angels Watching Over Me,' I kissed you and whispered, 'Sleep tight, don't let the elephants bite.' It was my way of protecting you against the so-called elephant in the room. I prayed that you wouldn’t let the way people treated you affect your big heart. So every night when I tucked you in, I said that. I think it was to remind me as much as it was to make you giggle and think I was silly.”

Delainey laid her head on Mom’s shoulder. “Well, I think you and Dad did a great job of protecting me. Not once have you ever let an elephant bite me.” Tears glistened in Riley’s eyes. “Thanks Mom. I love you. Sleep tight; don't let the el-e-phants bite.”

Mom kissed Delainey on her head. “It’s bedbuggies.”


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This article has been read 401 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Noel Mitaxa 12/13/13
This tugs at the heart strings without getting syrupy, because of its evident research. A minor typo is a switch in Delainey's name to Riley at the close, but I doubt if the judges will be too tough.
Linda Goergen12/14/13
A very well written and heartwarming story. It is so sad that even in this day and age some people still treat people with disabilities with distain and/or avoidance. Good message you wove around the topic!
lynn gipson 12/15/13
This is a sweet, heartwarming story and a different take on the topic. For the elephant in the room to be at the expense of a beautiful child is sad, that others would react that way. So goes life, but the MC is a strong, loving parent who made it all alright for the child. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, and if it is true, your daughter is truly blessed to have you for a Mom.

Blessings, Lynn
Danielle King 12/15/13
Aw, this is a beautiful and heart warming story of a mother's love and determination to protect her child from thoughtless, mindless people who should know better. She did an amazing job too, as her daughter turned out to be a well balanced young lady. This is so well written that I fully expected it to be a true story. Great job! And it's good to see you back.
Ruth Ann Moore12/15/13
This was so very sweet. The characters were realistic and I loved the intimacy of the story.
Sheldon Bass 12/16/13
Wonderful piece. I like your set-up to relate the tale as the retelling of a story.

Can't offer anything red, because, well you are you, highly advanced, and I would not feel confident in doing so.

Thank you for the good read!
Karlene Jacobsen12/16/13
My brother was born with cleft palate/cleft lip. He went through countless surgeries to correct it, and still has the visible marks of his cleft lip. Dentures were necessary because of the weakness of his palate to have teeth. My mom had to feed him with a syringe in his early years because he didn't have sucking ability to drink from a bottle.

Anyway, in your word document, there is a way to search and replace. It's a great way to ensure that when changing a name all the previous name(s) are caught and changed. I do it all the time.
Rachel Malcolm 12/16/13
Beautiful! I felt the mother's pain as I read this sweet story.
Judith Gayle Smith12/17/13
You have the gift of writing beauty so that it imprints on the hearts reading it. What more could any writer wish for . . .

Please "throw a brick" for others to enjoy, comment and support your writing:


Hebrews 10:26-31 KJV
Jack Taylor 12/17/13
Definitely a heart connector. You portray your characters so well and lead us through the challenges of the mom and child with gentle grace. Thanks for bringing understanding with story.
Anne Warden12/17/13
The elephant of ignoring a disability or deformity is, sadly, too often present in social gatherings.

A wonderful story! And you've just given me an idea for a non-fiction story I'd like to write, on how words [or lack of them] can be cruel.
Amy Michelle Wiley 02/04/14
Aww, sweet story. I grew up with a fairly serious learning disorder, and was blessed that my parents also worked very hard not to let the "elephants bite."
Holly Westefeld03/12/15
Oh the gems I missed while I was away from FW! This was lovely.
And again, thanks for your constant encouragement of others.
Betsy Markman03/18/15
Aww, this is sweet!

I have two kids (teens now) on the autism spectrum, and one of those is also bipolar. I know how it feels when your child doesn't fit in. That's good advice for all of us. Don't let the elephants bite!