October 22, 2019

The Foundling

At some point every child 

fantasizes herself a foundling,

left on a doorstep by a princess

to be raised by a simple shoemaker and his wife. 

The princess-mother would not have made      

her daughter take the test she didn’t study for

to teach that actions have consequences,

but she was banished from the kingdom, 

leaving her poor infant in the care of imposters 

who crushed the child with their ordinariness. 

My parents were such as these —  

my father not a cobbler, 

but a hard-working salesman

in the sheet metal business,  

my mother, beautiful but critical

as Snow White’s stepmother,

too involved with her own problems

to be bothered by a child’s petty dramas.

Who was this princess mother 

that had left me with dullards?  

An artist surely, whose talent 

and willingness to speak truth to power

had brought vengeance upon her, 

leaving her no choice but to protect me 

the only way she knew — swaddled and abandoned

on the flagstone walkway of a suburban ranch house,  

disappeared without a trace — 

no perfumed handkerchief, no sapphire ring

whose star could point me to her — 

only a voice that whispered, 

“You are more than this. Go inside

and find the self you’re meant to be.  

The one I never would have left, 

if I weren’t certain you would

get there on your own.”

Paula Rudnick is a former television writer and producer who has spent the past 30 years as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations.