Once there was a little girl called Albina. She lived with two big brothers, three big sisters, mommy, daddy and grandpa.
Her brothers and sisters were strong, active and jolly, so were her parents; while Albina was dreamy, quiet and pensive.
One hot summer morning when Albina woke up, grandpa was nowhere to be found.
Grandpa went on a journey, mommy told Albina.
When will he be back? Albina inquired.
“Not until you grow up and become very old,” Albina wished she were grown up already, as grandpa was the only one who would tell her stories and answer all her questions.
Each day, Albina missed her grandpa. She was heartbroken and lonesome. The only thing she could do was to sit under the big maple tree in the back garden, with her eyes closed. And thinking about grandpa.
Days went by. Then weeks. Then months. Then the maple tree was bare as all the leaves went on the ground. And then the snow came and buried the leaves.
One cold sunny morning when mommy and daddy went to town to fetch food and supplies, Albina decided that she’d go meet grandpa on his journey: Maybe he hasn’t gone very far. Perhaps he’s already on his way home. And if I just walk out to the back garden and then into the forest, perhaps I will call out to him, and he may answer and tell me a new story.
As stealthily as she could manage, Albina put on her coat and her big winter boots, and slipped out the backdoor before her brothers and sisters could notice.
The forest was still and peaceful. And Albina soon came upon a robin.
“What are you doing here all alone, my little girl?” The robin asked.
“Oh, I’m looking for my Grandpa. He went on a journey a while ago. I just thought maybe he’d still be in the forest. Have you seen him?”
The robin stared at Albina for a long, long time before she replied, carefully, “Oh my child, have your parents not told you that his journey has taken him far far away and you will not find him?”
“Never?” Albina started to cry.
“Well, my child, never is a very long time. And nobody knows what will happen when ‘never’ comes to visit us. Why don’t you turn back home now?”
“But I am so sad and lonely at home, nobody will talk to me. I want to hear stories Grandpa used to tell…” Albina sobbed.
“Here, my child, I’ll tell you a story.
“Once upon a time, there is a little robin chick. She had two brothers and three sisters -”
“That’s what I have -”
“Hush, my child, don’t interrupt –
“Her brothers and sisters were so much bigger than the little chick so when their parents brought back worms, she seldom got any except some tiny pieces that had accidentally fallen off from the mouths of her big siblings’. Her parents never noticed their smallest starving offspring as they were too busy bringing worms to all their chicks. The little chick got smaller and weaker when her brothers and sisters grew bigger and stronger. One day, when a duck happened to fly by, the little robin yell out with all her might, ‘Please, would you adopt me?’ The duck broke her flight and landed on the tree branch by the nest, ‘What did you just say, my little one?’ ‘Would you please adopt me? Mommy and daddy don’t see me. My neck can’t stretch so high as my brothers and sisters. Please, I am so hungry.’ ‘Oh, of course,’ the duck said, ‘Come on then, walk out of the nest and follow me. Be careful, don’t miss a step, you can’t fly yet’. Using the very last bit of her strength, the little chick walked out of the nest and followed the duck home. The duck treated her just like her own little ducklings. She brought her worms because she was not strong enough to walk around with her, like her ducklings, to get her own worms. And it took no time at all for the little robin chick to grow big and strong, exactly like how she remembered her brothers and sisters used to be. Even bigger and stronger, she concluded. And now she could walk around with the ducklings and get her own warms. Besides swimming, she did everything with the ducklings, who treated her no different than each other. ‘At long last I have a mommy who saw me,’ she murmured to herself and was content. And one day the duck taught the robin to fly…”
The story so captivated Albina, she didn’t even notice that she was no longer sobbing, or feeling forlorn.
She smiled at the robin and said, “Would you please adopt me? And tell me stories like grandpa used to?”
“No, my dear, I don’t know any more stories. And soon, the spring will come and I will be busy catching worms for my chicks. But my little girl, if you fend off despair and pay attention, one day soon a duck may fly by….”
Albina waved goodbye to the robin. All the way home, she contemplated.
Mommy and daddy were yet to be back from town. And her cheerful brothers and sisters never even detected Albina’s absence.
She sat at the windowsill and a thought occurred to her: Grandpa once said that a building that houses lots of stories is called a library, maybe tomorrow I’ll ask mommy and daddy if they’d take me to a library and then I can find some new stories. And maybe there will be a new grandpa, or grandma, who wouldn’t mind answering all my questions….
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