With every suggestion, she would complain, "No, no it will never work." Then she would burst into tears and say, "I can't do it, I can't do it!"
I decided to write a myth of my own. Experienced readers will recognized a little of the Judgment of Paris and Atalanta, but it got the point across. I'll share it here with you.
A couple of notes: yes, "Prettiest" is the nickname I have called Ellie ever since she could walk; also, feel free to read the details and pick out your own interpretations of Dittes family dynamics.
The gods were gathered, sipping nectar and laughing at the stories of Homer, when the door flung open and a package rolled down the colonnade to the base of Zeus’s throne.
As it came to a rest, the paper bundle magically unfolded to reveal a golden apple. Attached to the apple was a tag which read, “Prettiest.”
Zeus read the note and smacked his forehead. “Not again!” he groaned, thinking of the terrible war his daughter, Helen of Troy, had begun soon after the last golden apple had rolled through the halls of Mount Olympos.
“Who is it for?” asked Hermes. Without waiting, he leaned over and read the tag. “Prettiest!” he exclaimed. He looked at Zeus. “Who is that?”
“I think I know.” A lovely goddess got up from her bench and glided toward Zeus’s throne, smiling prettily and reaching out for the apple.
“Don’t even think about it Aphrodite,” said the goddess, Artemis. She had just gotten back from chasing deer through the Elysian Fields, and she hadn’t yet changed out of her jogging outfit. Even so, she seemed as fresh as a spring morning, and her golden braids were sprinkled with flower petals.
“I think it is mine.” Athena strode forward, her clear grey eyes glaring at the other two goddesses. Her fingers tapped ominously on the shaft of her spear.
The three goddesses glared at each other. Then they looked at Zeus. “You decide,” they demanded, almost as one.
Zeus laughed. “Oh no I won’t,” he said. “I won’t have any part of this. Do you think I want everyone on Olympos angry with me? Never!”
“Just give it to me,” Aphridite said. “No me!” Artemis replied.
“God of Thunder, if I may.” A short satyr approached the throne. “There is a dancing place in Tennessee. Huge slabs of concrete overlooking a spring, a burial place for the giant, Thorsys. A girl lives there. I have seen her. I hear that she is called, ‘Prettiest.’”
Athena glared at him with her grey eyes, fires glowed in the dark starburst around her pupils. “Well…is she…the Prettiest—I mean, this apple could be for her.”
The satyr stuttered. “No, your highness, she is nothing like you…except,” he paused reverently, “for her eyes. They are of your color—and passion.”
Artemis ran over to him. “You said she was the prettiest, didn’t you?” she growled, sounding almost like a hungry wolf.
“Compared to you, she is not,” the satyr continued, “But you should see her run—she is so fast, I dare say she could keep up with you.”
Artemis smiled. “Prettiest, prettiest, prettiest,” Aphrodite said, pursing her lips into a sweet smile. “Can she do this?” She stared at the satyr and blinked her eyelashes. The satyr felt his knees weakening and his pulse quicken.
“I dare say she comes close,” he said. He turned to Zeus. “I only mentioned this because I thought that she might serve as judge.”
Zeus pounded the arm rest of his throne. “Wonderful idea!” he said. He handed the golden apple to the satyr. “You shall be the keeper of this. Lead these goddesses to the dancing circle you spoke of, and the competition will begin. This girl, uh, Prettiest, sounds like the very judge we have been looking for.”
The satyr and the three goddesses were caught up in a cloud and taken far away to Tennessee. At that very moment, Ellie Dittes sat curled up on a couch reading a book. Her phone buzzed to life. Text message.
There on her screen was a golden apple avatar. She couldn’t take her eyes off of it. It was so beautiful.
The phone buzzed again. “Want it?” the message read.
“Back yard. Past the fire pit.”
Back yard? Ellie looked out the window. Leaves were blowing around the yard. A storm must have picked up. She put her book down and walked to the family room, looking out past the dogwood tree at the fire pit. Just beyond, she could see a cloud that seemed to glow with pink, purple and green lights.
Buzz. She looked down. The golden apple. Buzz. “RUCumin?”
Ellie opened the door and walked into the back yard. The cloud seemed to race toward her. Suddenly it enveloped her.
Ellie blinked and tried to shake some sense into her head. This was her back yard, all right, but the people were unlike anything she had ever seen. A satyr grinned up at her, perched on his fawn-like legs. Three beautiful women—one in a flowing dress, one in Greek battle armor, and one in a jogging suit—smiled sweetly at her.
“You are the one called, ‘Prettiest?’” the satyr asked her.
Ellie wrinkled her eyebrows. “That’s just a silly name my Daddy calls me,” she said. “I don’t really believe it. No one else calls me that.”
“I believe it,” said one of the women, whose grey eyes warmed her. “That Daddy of yours is a smart one.”
“Oh, it’s true,” said another. “I just love what you have done with your hair—and those clothes look so great on you. I bet all the boys are sweet on you.”
Not to be outdone, the woman in the jogging suit spoke up. “Prettiest in looks and deeds—I hear that you’re quite the athlete.”
“Thanks,” Ellie said. Under her breath she muttered, “I guess.”
The satyr looked at the women and then back at Ellie. “You will probably want to get right back to whatever it was that you were doing.” He paused.
“A book,” Ellie said. “I was reading a book, and I still have some homework to do.”
“Your book,” the satyr continued. “I just need a quick favor. It has to do with this.” He reached into a bag and pulled out the golden apple.
Ellie’s eyes grew wide, and she gasped in amazement. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen—nothing she had seen in the Louvre Atlanta or Boston Museum of Fine Arts could compare with its brilliance or craftsmanship! She read the tag, “Prettiest.”
“It’s not for you,” the satyr said, putting it back into his bag. “It’s for one of them. You get to decide who it belongs to. You could say it’s a contest. You’re the judge, Prettiest.”
Ellie looked at the women. They were all beautiful. “I don’t think I can make a decision like that,” she said.
Athena strode towards Ellie, put her arm around her shoulders, and turned her away from the others. “Let me make this easy for you,” she said. “I’m the Goddess of Wisdom. If you pick me, everything gets a lot easier. You will get the top grade in every class for the rest of your life—even math. You get a full scholarship to the university of your choice, whether it’s in Paris or New York or London, and you are guaranteed your dream job right after you graduate—valedictorian, of course. Just give me the golden apple.”
Ellie grinned. “Nice,” she said. “You said New York, right?”
Athena winked at her. “Nice eyes,” she whispered.
“Oh Ellie, let Auntie Artemis talk with you.” Ellie spun around and faced the goddess in the jogging suit. “Ellie, I can tell that you’re a winner, just by the look of you.”
“I’m the Goddess of Girlhood,” Artemis continued. “Did you like the Olympics last summer? If you like winning, you like the Olympics, and I can help you get a gold medal…or three…or ten if you want. You will run and run, leaving everyone in your dust. And since I’m the Goddess of Girlhood, you’ll always be the BFF, you will never run out of friends.”
“Sweet,” Ellie explained.
“Sure it is,” Artemis giggled. “All you have to do is give me the golden apple. Let’s get together for lunch sometime. Where is your table at lunch?”
“Now Artemis run along.” Aphrodite strode up to Ellie. “It’s time for a woman-to-woman chat.”
Ellie’s lips lifted into a smile.
“Your lips are just beautiful,” Aphrodite said. “I would suggest a light pink lipstick—nothing too strong.”
“O….K….” Ellie said, expectantly.
“I already know what those two ninnies were talking to you about, so let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? Do you like any boys?”
Ellie grinned. “Sort of.”
“I’ll give you beauty that will knock their eyeballs out of their sockets. The boys won’t be able to resist you, my dear. You will never have a bad hair day, your body will be the perfect proportions at all times. Oh, and this….” Aphrodite pulled out a credit card. “Unlimited balance, but it can only be spent on clothes and accessories.”
Ellie reached out as if in a trance. “Give me….”
Aphrodite snatched it away. “Only if I get that golden apple.”
“That’s enough you three,” the satyr said. “You have all had your say. Now give Prettiest a chance to make up her mind.”
Ellie backed up until she was sitting on the steps outside the family room. The three goddesses stood under the dogwood tree. Ellie could hear them whisper.
“Think what your daddy is going to say when he sees your grades,” Athena said.
“Your name in lights,” Artemis whispered, “Ellie Dittes, USA!!!”
“I bet that boy is a cutie,” Aphrodite said, “He’s going to love the way you look.”
“Pick your Mama, she’s prettier than all of them combined.” Was that Daddy? What was he doing on the other side of the family room doors?
Ellie looked down at the golden apple. She tossed it in the air and caught it, admiring its brilliance. She had to decide, she just didn’t know which one….
Ellie, I think that this myth describes where you are in your life at this very moment. The golden apple you are holding is your life. It’s your future. You have so many demands, so many dreams, so many aspirations, and they are all calling to you, beckoning you, begging your allegiance. This is a stressful choice—very stressful, especially for someone with your natural talents and abilities.
Myths are wonderful tools to look at the things that might be causing you trouble. Giving these stressors a name and a face helps you to understand them better. Perhaps you could write an ending to this story yourself—or add gods and goddesses (religion, family, music, etc.) that I didn’t have time to include.
The greatest story that I know of is the one your life has written so far. It has travelled to the ends of the earth; it has experienced true loyalty and great turmoil. I am so proud of you—very, very, very proud of everything about you. I hope that we can keep writing together—that you will continue to inspire me—for many, many, many more years.
--Daddy, 11 January 2009