A poor widow was living with her two sons and their wives. They treated her shamefully, but the old woman had no one to turn to with her woes and nowhere else to go, so day after day she suffered in silence.  Her sons and daughters-in-law mocked her, and begrudged her every crumb of bread, every grain of rice.  Even as the widow starved, her misery grew.

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One day, when she could no longer bear the pain, she slipped out of the house and walked down the road.  She had no idea where she was going, until she came to a house so decrepit there wasn’t even a roof left. She felt strangely drawn to the deserted house and stepped inside.

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To her surprise, she found herself telling the nearest wall her grievances against her firstborn son, whom she had showered with love from the first time she felt him quickening inside her, and who now had no use for her.

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As she finished, the wall crashed to the ground under the weight of her sorrow, and she felt her burden grow lighter.

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She turned to the next wall and the tears flowed as she described the cruelty of her first son’s wife…

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…who gave her only rags to wear and threatened to send her out with a bowl to beg.

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The second wall collapsed and she grew lighter still.

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She told the third wall about her second son’s ill treatment…

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…and the fourth wall her complaints against his wife.

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When she was finished, the old woman stood amidst the wreckage, watching the dust settle.  She still had nowhere else to go, but as she turned homeward to face her life,  just for the telling of the tale, she felt lighter in body and spirit than she had in a long, long time.


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–Retold in Apples From Heaven, Copyright 1994 & 2016 Naomi Baltuck.


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