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March 11, 2003

Snapshot
Posted by Teresa at 01:59 AM *

I was walking up Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn yesterday morning, and paused to let a woman and her son come out the door of the 24-hour bagel place and cross the sidewalk in front of me.

The kid was darned cute, maybe six or seven, and obviously in an ebullient mood. He grinned up at me, in my long red overcoat and broad-brimmed black felt fedora, and said “Hello, witch!”

What else could I do? I gave him a grin in return and a conspiratorial wink, as if to say “Fair cop; but don’t tell anyone else.”

Comments on Snapshot:
#1 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 06:12 AM:

And he didn't even ask if you were a good witch or a bad witch? Ah, but I suppose, being the perceptive young lad he obviously is, he sensed your innate goodness.

Or, in these over-protective days, seven is too young to have seen _The Wizard of Oz_.

#2 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 06:33 AM:

Once I was on a bus in Copenhagen, wearing a long floppy woolen hat and coat, this kid was getting off with his mother (probably 5 or 6) and he started pointing at me and saying "en nissemand, se mor, en nisser" which translates to something like: "a house-elf, see mom, an elf".
To bad I didn't have any presents to give him.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 08:10 AM:

Back when Mike Farren was living in a working-class suburb of Boston, a few weeks before Christmas he got braced by one of the neighborhood youngsters. Mike's a big guy with a beer belly that looks like he's stuffed a pillow under his clothes. He also has curly hair that's gone white, a noble set of whiskers to match, bright blue eyes with great laugh lines around them, and squarish wire-rimmed glasses.

The kid hauled Mike to a stop out on the sidewalk and let him know that in spite of any denials Mike might make, he knew who he was.

I think it was the year after that that one of Mike's co-workers had to bring her rugrat to work with her one day. The kid, peeking over the top of a cubicle wall, was everlastingly impressed to discover that his mother worked with Santa Claus.

One of the things I miss about having an unrealistic hair color was that it got me into conversations with kids that age and a little younger. I remember one saying "You have red hair" over and over again, as though he were deeply pleased at having figured something out.

What I eventually understood -- his mother and I were doing our wash at the same laundromat, so he and I had time for an extended interaction -- was that he'd heard about people having red hair, but I, by golly, had red hair that was actually red.

It's a fine thing to be able to give a small child the experience of having language suddenly turn real.

#4 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 10:16 AM:

In a different context, that would have been your cue to break out the Carol Kane impersonation...

#5 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 10:29 AM:

Indeed, when my daughter was three, and became enamored of a friendly-faced little rag doll in classic "witch" costume (black dress, pointy hat, striped stockings), we encouraged her to name it "Valerie."

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 10:51 AM:

Funny, no one ever seems to know that I'm a Witch just by looking at me. This is kind of no matter what I wear (since I never wear pointy black hats and leave the black robe at home).

When I was young and pretty and had lots of curly gold hair (since gone dark, then gray, then invisible), some kids mistook me for William Katt (actually for the character he played on The Greatest American Hero).

Even when I wore a big heavy silver pentacle (only for weddings these days), nobody figured it out. Some thought I was a Satanist (ggggrrrrggg); one guy asked if I might be "a member of the same tribe I belong to" -- took me a while to realize that he was asking if I were Jewish. He was basing it off the pentacle, too: either he was completely innumerate, or educated enough to mistake the pentacle for the Seal of Solomon (a reasonable error).

#7 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 12:15 PM:

At Ellen Kushner's and Delia Sherman's wedding, I was approached by Ellen's -- brother? cousin? some male relative -- and asked if I were a pagan. I have long, flowing brown hair, which was loose about my shoulders, and I was wearing an electric blue silk shirt and a pendant made by Laurie Edison.

I gave the best answer I could, that I wasn't actually observant.

#8 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 01:38 PM:

This is related, although in a slightly different way.

We're flying back from Saint Thomas last week and my daughter (age 2) is sitting in the window seat. She's munching peanuts or whatever the latest snack was. Talking to herself. Having a grand time.

She gets down to the last peanut, turns, holding it up for me to see as it rests perfectly in the center of her little palm.

"Daddy," she says. "The One Ring."

#9 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 03:36 PM:

Alternative scenario:

"Hello, witch!"

"Silence, _muggle!_" (Reaches meaningfully for purse.)

#10 ::: Sue Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 06:57 AM:

In the days when I wore a pentagram, I was, on more than one occasion, asked if I was Jewish.

The most disturbing was being followed around a supermarket by two delightfull little additions to the gene pool who walked behind me chanting,
'Jew, Jew, Jew' in a decidedly unfriendly manner.

I turned round, and in my best very scary voice said 'Not Jewish, witch!'
To my immense satisfaction, they ran away with a look of horror, one of them in tears. I was hoping that their irate parental unit would corner me for an expination, I would have love to know where they got their lovely manners from. But I didn't see them again.

Love children, couldn't eat a whole one (though I'm sure Teresa could find me a wonderful recipe which might make them more palatable).

#11 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 10:50 AM:

Good gods, Sue, where on Earth did that happen? I mean, I know stupid ignorant anti-Semitism is everywhere, but...little kids? I thought they had to be carefully taught first.

Anyway, I hope they had nightmares for weeks.

#12 ::: Sue Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:32 PM:

Happened in cosmopolitan Brighton UK, about, ummmm, 1988.
They were only kids too, no more than 10 years. Which is why I didn't particularly want to meet the parents, they must have got such attitude from somewhere.

I had several occasions where I had anti-Semitic comments from wearing the pentagram. I sort of think that if people are stupid enough not to be able to tell the difference between a five pointed star and a six pointed star...

And I always took delight in telling them all that I was a witch, even though that isn't strictly an accurate description of my religion.

I now wear a crescent (I felt the need for a moon symbol, rather than a solar one) and haven't had any comments, yet.

#13 ::: Real Live Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 06:48 PM:

That's a precious thing to happen and a great thing to notice.

#14 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 11:21 PM:

Yep. What Preacher said.

And more to the point, you're busted. But that's OK.
Now you've got to give us all good wishes. But you would do that anyway .

Seriously, it's yet another one of those trans-space-time moments (OK, I let you tell the story about you on the subway with the urchin and you looking like a Victorian matron).

#15 ::: Madeleine ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 03:58 PM:

Outed. Seven year olds are perceptive objects. Rebecca thinks you're magic and funny, so she's clearly seeing the same aura.

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 12:47 AM:

Thanks, Preacher. Nice to see you here.

Claire, of course you get good wishes, plus whatever you need that happens to be in my pockets. The story about the time-traveling kid on the subway is already on record here.

Mad, Rebecca is magic and funny, she inherited it from both sides, and I still think life may hold no greater honor than that six-month period when she named one of her feet "Teresa" and the other one "Patrick."

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