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Fanny’s Tale

La Belle Dame Sans Merci (“the beautiful woman without mercy”), a painting by Walter Crane (1845-1915) that always makes me think of Portia

La Belle Dame Sans Merci (“the beautiful woman without mercy”), a painting by Walter Crane (1845-1915) that always makes me think of Portia

Fanny McElroy, 1997–

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

(I am going to write about myself in the third person. Somehow it’s easier that way.)

Fanny McElroy [that’s me]  is 12 years old— 13 on August 4, 2010— and as of this moment, April 17, 2010, is in the seventh grade at Hilltop Junior High. We have always known that Fanny is an Exceptional Child [that’s what other people say, teachers and parents; I’ve always felt pretty normal], but we found out this spring that she is  reincarnated from the Ancients. Which explains a lot.

Fanny’s best friends are Sister Alma Rose, also one of the Ancients; Mr. Truman La Follette, who manages Sister Alma Rose’s farm and who is the father of Portia; Father Dooley, a Roman Catholic priest; Sister Alma Rose’s Cousin Dulcie, a former wild child, now a comfortably plump, rosy-cheeked, white-haired wisewoman and healer (she is Portia’s mother; they are both from the Ancients); Pablo, Fanny’s best friend her own age; and now Henry, whose full name is Henry Morgan McKenzie, Jr., and who is from the Ancients.

Robert Burns, two paintings, one with 'the love of his life,' Mary Campbell

When Fanny met Henry, she thought he looked exactly like the actor Matthew McConaughey, but Sister Alma Rose convinced her that he looked more like the Bard of Scotland, Robert Burns, whom Sister Alma Rose had no doubt known personally, who can say? I do know that it was several lives earlier that she was a Maori in what would become New Zealand

COVER GIRL: Julianne Morgan, a respected actress and Hollywood favorite, before she gave up her career for marriage and children

COVER GIRL: Julianne Morgan, a respected actress and Hollywood favorite, before she gave up her career for marriage and children

Fanny lives in a very happy home with her wonderful parents and younger brothers on a farm just west of Hilltop and across the road from Sister Alma Rose’s big old farmhouse with the wraparound porch and the widow’s walk and fabulous gardens. Fanny’s daddy is a farmer and her mama is a musician who gives piano lessons. Because Fanny’s mama wanted to name her children after her favorite composers, Fanny’s brothers are called Johannes (after Johannes Brahms) (“Yo” for short) and Arcangelo  (after Corelli) (Arcangelo is a toddler and is nicknamed “Angelo”). Fanny herself is named after the sister of Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, a talented musician who was, in fact, a very accomplished pianist and the composer of 466 pieces of music. Fanny McElroy admires her exceedingly but wishes that her name had been almost anything other than “Fanny.” Why couldn’t she have had a nice Jewish name like Rebecca or Ruth or Deborah?


Henry was a seminary student when he was reported missing in 2000, the summer after his first postgraduate year. He grew up in Richmond, Virginia, where his dad owns a newspaper. His mother is the former movie star Julianne Morgan, who retired when she married Henry McKenzie, Sr. Julianne is at peace about her son’s disappearance because he visits her in dreams. Her husband thinks she’s crazy and makes her go to therapy.

Fanny Mendelssohn

Fanny Mendelssohn, 1805-1847

When Fanny was 9, her daddy was in a serious accident involving a drunk driver, who was killed. Daddy was badly injured, but Fanny had a vision of his healing that night, and in the vision she saw herself, as an adult, with Henry. This happened three years before she and Henry actually met and before she knew that such a person even existed.

Since he appeared on Sister Alma Rose’s porch one afternoon, Henry has visited Fanny several times a week, and she feels completely loved and understood by him. He and Fanny’s parents treat each other like long-lost cousins. She had thought that her relationship with Henry might be awkward, because (a) he tugs gently at her awakening hormones and (b) they both know what the future holds, at least in part.

But it’s okay. It’s good. Right now they are best friends, soul mates. They go for long walks in the woods, along the creek that empties into the Wild Turkey River, talking about everything from Schopenhauer and Steppenwolf (the book, not the band) to Suzy Bogguss (the singer) and the Rolling Stones (the band). Henry has taught Fanny several forms of meditation, such as grounding oneself and walking meditation. They pray a lot. Sometimes Henry gets exasperated with Fanny and shrugs dramatically, turning his eyes and the palms of his hands toward heaven and pleading, “God, give me strength.”

Arcangelo Corelli, 1653-1713

Arcangelo Corelli, 1653-1713

Henry and Sister Alma Rose are both preparing Fanny for what Sister Alma Rose calls her “ministry,” answering many of her questions about the Ancients but leaving many more unanswered, such as why doesn’t Fanny remember her past lives and where has Henry been for the past ten years and why doesn’t he contact his parents and where is he living at the moment? All in good time, he tells her.

A word about Portia

Sister Alma Rose once told Fanny that Portia is an Aberration, one of the Ancients reincarnated who remembers nothing of her former life and has no idea that she has been sent to do anything other than seduce men and twirl in circles, looking and singing like a fairy child, in the woods. Henry describes Portia as “feral.”

But Portia was in a photograph taken in Richmond with their friend Ben and with Henry, just as he, Henry, was leaving on the cross-country backpacking trip during which he disappeared. Fanny suspects that Henry, like Sister Alma Rose, is keeping an eye on Portia, protecting her and protecting others from her. Still, Fanny can’t help being just a tiny bit jealous of Portia, who is as sensual and voluptuous as Fanny is girlish and inexperienced. All in good time, Henry tells her.

Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

“All in good time,” she mimicked once. “You can be so patronizing, Henry McKenzie.”

“The word is ‘PAH-tronizing,'” Henry said, giving the first syllable a short A, as in sad, “not ‘PAY-tronizing.'”

“Well,” said Fanny, who knew she had pronounced the word correctly and Henry was being “patronizing” on purpose, “let’s go be ‘PAH-trons’ at the diner. I’m hungry for eggs and hash browns.”

She tried to pull him along the dusty path, but Henry, delighted with her, simply stood in the middle of the path and looked at her with such sweetness that she literally felt her heart grow warm, and a solitary tear rolled down her cheek and dripped into the dust with a little splat. Undone, he pulled her to him and kissed her hard on the forehead. “God is good,” he said huskily, holding her tight. “God is good indeed.”

Scenic byway

...long walks in the woods


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