Broken Hearted: A Wing-Feather Fable

Fables-39

“Ain’t nothin’ easy ’bout fixin’ broken hearts.”

Poor advice, but it was all that Grandma Lucy gave her when she died. That, and Spangle’s Heart Repair, the family business. Grandma Lucy had been sour, but that didn’t mean she had a market on the truth. Natalie picked up a wrench, set out to prove her wrong.

She’d grown up inside the wheels and gears. She knew the many ways that hearts can break and how to grease the chains, replace the shattered bearings, polish off the rust. Still, she eased in, slowly, mending hearts that weren’t much more than knocked about, no substantial damage. There were spurned accountants, teenage girls crushed out on teachers, boys who lost their hamsters. Natalie tinkered with the casings and the pins. “Good as new,” she said. They were. She built a reputation.

The challenges got harder. Widowers came, peering through the grimy window, lifting their fedoras. There were runaways and vagrants, soldiers who had “Dear John” letters crumpled in their pockets, nuns who’d lost the sight of God, bakers weakened by remorse, pianists sunk in sorrow. Tough cases, every one — and yet they each left whistling, healed. Word began to spread. Customers came flocking. Natalie often winked at Grandma Lucy’s ghost, transparent in the mirror.

She fell in love, and more than once. Eventually, she married. And yet, with all of that, her own heart stayed untroubled, like a lake without a ripple. She had a child, a daughter marked with wild hair and sparkling eyes. Natalie named her Sunshine, and took to mothering with ease. All those years repairing hearts had set her up to soothe the early hurts of childhood, skinned knees and purple bruises, the cracks of minor disappointment. So many injuries could be fixed with kisses, a Band-Aid, a lollipop or cookie.

And Sunshine was a natural, gifted. Tucked beneath her mother’s wing, she learned to disassemble heartache, tally up love’s follies, replace the engine oil and fuses.  Natalie was proud, replete, and so, when she felt the first awful, wrenching pull, she didn’t recognize the cause. She didn’t know her heart was breaking.

Sunshine had become. . . less sunny. She tripped and fell more often, broke places that a bandage couldn’t reach. Her fingers shook, and her spark forgot its language. Sunshine . . . .wasn’t, and Natalie could not save her, no matter how she bent herself, contorted, thrashed or prayed.

“Ain’t nothin’ easy ’bout fixin’ broken hearts.” Grandma Lucy squinted from the mirror. Natalie didn’t need to ask her what she meant. Her own heart was a lake that roiled, thrashing, inconsolable, bereft.

The fact is, she should have known. Broken mothers never came into the shop, never asked for her repairs, never splayed their shattered mainsprings. They held tightly to their wounded children, hands pared down to iron bones, no matter. They did not release the broken hearts that rived them to the core.

Natalie dropped her wrench. She took hold of Sunshine, and she
did
not
let
go.

~ Photo by Brenda Gottsabend; Story by Lisa Ahn

Learn more about Wing-Feather Fables here

7 thoughts on “Broken Hearted: A Wing-Feather Fable

  1. Pingback: Wing-Feather Fable: Broken-Hearted | How to Feather an Empty Nest

  2. Beautifully written. A lovely respite from toiling with numbers at work. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Ah, what an amazing treat to have a fable with which to start my day. And this one – which speaks to the mother in all of us – about that moment when we realize that, no matter how very much we love our children – there are things that we cannot fix. Heart-breaking, that realization. And yet, we also learn how very strong our children can be.

  4. This was absolutely BEAUTIFUL, Lisa! I can feel the anguish and pain that Natalie feels–it made my heart ache. As always, your imagery is amazing and your way with words–STUNNING!

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