GUARDIANS OF THE TOWERS
“G-Ma was the building mommy and I saw
crash a castle? Was it?”
“Not really, Sarah, well, I guess it was
now that I think about it. Yes, and you know there were two buildings, two
towers that fell down, little one.”
“They’re going to get fixed, right G-Ma?
Then the town will be happy again, right G-Ma”.
I looked down at my beautiful, innocent
three-year-old granddaughter, Sarah, and gazed into her incredible chocolate
brown eyes. I recognized the story they told me. I’d seen the same
look in the eyes of so many of the children in the past several weeks here in
the Lower East Side of New York City--at the Tompkins Square Park playground and
other local play areas--at Two Boots Pizza Parlor--at McDonald’s--at Church--at
or around the schools where daily I picked up both of my grandkids and, just ‘on
the streets’. I decided to try to explain what happened in a language
Sarah understood better than any other—in the form of fairy tale. That
way, I wouldn’t have to explain what had really happened.
“Sarah, did you know that the King of our
Land built these two great towers for his Queen and his Princess?”
Sarah shook her head. Her eyes widened
at the word “princess.”
“ He wanted to create a kind of castle that would
help the people of his Land work hard so they could help the whole world be a
better place by having more money, more food.”
“So they could go to 'Old McDonald’s', G-Ma?” (What my grandkids call McDonald's
- as in 'Old McDonald's Farm')
“Yes. Kind of like that, Sarah. Well,
the towers were so high people from all over the country and way out in other
parts of the world would come and visit the Towers. They would ride up almost
to the top and look out over the King’s entire Kingdom.
“G-MA, did the Princess have a horse, did
“Oh, yes, it was kept underneath the
castle in a special stable.”
I related how strong and beautiful the
towers were, and how proud the people who lived in the Kingdom were of the
towers. No one could hurt the towers. Or so they thought. I
told her the people began to take the safety of the Towers for granted. They got
careless and forgot to watch out for the dragons.
“Was there a dragon in the Kingdom, G-Ma?
Was there? Was he a mean one with fire coming out of his nose and mouth?”
Sarah screwed up her face like a wrinkled apple, aping a mean dragon face the
best her little mind to conjure.
“I’m sad to say, Sarah-love, there was a
mean dragon waiting in the bushes. He was angry at the King, and the King’s
people. He wanted to hurt the King. He wanted to show the King how powerful
the dragon was over the King and the King’s people. The dragon wanted to make
you afraid, Sarah, and your Mom and Dad and brother afraid. So you wouldn’t
smile or laugh, but always frown and cry. So the dragon threatened the King,
and told the King to obey the dragon—or else!”
“Like time-outs, G-Ma? That’s just
like what the King gave the dragon, 'or else'’?
“Kind of, Sarah. Only the dragon was
much meaner than a time-out. He wanted to really hurt people.”
I related how the King refused to obey the
dragon’s wishes and the dragon swished its huge tail and knocked down the
buildings and hurt many people and made them cry. Even the Queen was hurt.
Sarah was very upset. I quieted her by
telling her that the ashes and pieces from the toppled and burned buildings came
to life. Many new friendly dragons had been created and the leader of them was
Instead of a beautiful horse to ride, she
was astride a friendly looking, strong, handsome dragon.
“And, the best part of all, Sarah, is
that the Queen’s dragon had wings, and so did the other new dragons.”
“They could fly, G-Ma, they could fly.
Would they crash into buildings like the airplanes did?” Her frowns returned.
“No, Sarah, I told you, these are the
good dragons. They protect the Queen and Princess and all the little children
from any harm by the mean dragon. They are the guardians of all the buildings
of all of the cities of our world.
And the Queen—who was hurt when the mean
dragon attacked—was well and healthy and strong. And she began to train other
mothers, aunts and sisters to give the strong, friendly dragons commands where
to fly and who to protect.
“How can you tell a bad dragon from a good
one?” Sarah asked the question as she twisted a rubber band to see how far it
“The good dragons wear black armbands that
say “Semper Vigilantes.”
“What’s Sempfer…Vigillantes…mean, G-Ma?”
“It means Always Vigilant…always ready to
do the right thing…always keeping your eye out for a car crossing the street…or
someone trying to hurt someone…so you can protect them..”
“Like call 9 and 1 and 1…?”
“Oh, better than that Sarah. You can
call on the dragons…and the Queen.”
Sarah smiled up at me.
“And when you do, all the good dragons all
over the world come too. They all have Semper Vigilantes on their legs, ready
to help you and other children be safe. Not afraid. Not scared.
“I’m not scared, G-Ma!”
“Good, Sarah. It's so like you not to be
“What happens when the good dragons meet
the bad dragons. Will the good dragons fly away so they won’t be hurt?”
Sarah snapped the rubber band against her thumb and didn't cry at the
“That’s what is so neat, here, Sarah; the
words “Semper Vigilantes” are special, magical words for a good dragon. When a
bad dragon comes and spits out fire from its mouth, and tries to knock down
buildings and burn them, the good dragons say, “Semper Vigilantes!” And out of
their mouths come long, hard streams of water—from firemen and policemen inside
them. They put out the bad dragon’s fire. And without fire, the bad dragon
can’t fly. He falls to the ground. And pretty soon, he turns into bones like
the dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum.”
“Where is the Princess, G-Ma. Is she with
her mommy and daddy?” Sarah threw out the question like children do. I always had to expect the unexpected from her, as
any mother or father does a child whose mind bounces from A to Z in a single
“Well, Sarah, the mommy Queen, is up in
the heavens, guiding the good dragons so they fly over the world, and are ever
vigilant--always attentive. They watch and protect us from bad
dragons so you and your children and their children, Sarah--when you have
them--will not have doubt or fear or falsely think everything is always okay.
The Queen, like your mommy, will watch over you, and remind you to keep your eye
out for the bad dragons.
“But what about the Princess, G-Ma?”
“The Princess is with her daddy, the King,
down here, on earth. They are still a family because the Queen is alive in
their hearts and the hearts of the world, keeping us safe, watching out for us
up in the Heavens, guiding the good dragons to fight the bad dragons with fire
hoses. All the Princesses of the nations of the world will be protected, dear
“I am a Princess, G-MA, so I will be safe,
too, if the Queen is helping the good dragons, right? And, will my brother
Matt, and all the other kids be safe, too?
“Yes, little Princess, the Queen will be
ever strong and vigilant to protect us all”.
I smiled and my little Princess, Sarah, hopped up into my open arms and gave me
one of her so-so-Sarah-special ‘squeezy’ hugs.
As I held her tight, I thought I could sense the roar of a dragon’s breath, and the
sound of a firehouse quenching it, and the tumbling of a bad dragon’s body
falling, hitting the ground, to sleep until it went into the museum, where it
belonged…only a memory…not a fact of life.