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The Forgotten Fairy Tale of Should’ve, Could’ve, & Would’ve.



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Like any normal child, I started writing letters to my One Day, Some Day daughter when I was 11-years-old. I’ve been writing her into the margins of my diaries for eleven years now in hopes that one day she’ll find these books buried somewhere in the attic and know through the etchings of my messy cursive that I wanted the most for her. Even when I’ve had no idea what to want for myself, I wanted the most for her. The following post is for her– my One Day, Some Day Daughter.

To my One Day, Some Day Daughter:

This is a story made for the day when you wake up, hair all knotted by the pull of your pillow, and stumble straight into Should’ve & Could’ve & Would’ve: a trio of sisters that the world should call witches, for they’ll snatch up your dreams and scarf down your desires, and Fix You Up Pretty in a Too Tiny Box that God Never Made You For.

He made you for dancing—for words too eloquent to say with more than a whispered voice—for tinsel delicately strewn on the branches of baby evergreens—for icing, thick and sugared on the tops of every little thing you touch. 

But one day, one gloom-stricken day, you’ll stumble into a cottage with doors that lock behind you and windows that snap shut to find Should’ve herself waiting for you.

You’ll know her by the rings piled on every long, sticky finger. The Diet Coke she clutches in her hand. The mole on her face, right beside the curl in her lips caked with a color that Chanel phased out two decades ago.

She’ll look you straight in the eye and ask you where you’ve been.

“A little late to join the par-tay, Babycakes,” she’ll say, snapping her gum. “HA, HA, HA, bet you were off thinking you could make something of yourself. Like you could move, bah! Like you could make a difference, BAH! Hey, Could’ve! COULLLLDDD’VEEEEE!!! Where are you!!! Getttt innnn hereeeeee nowwwww! And bring the cat!”

Could’ve will emerge, wearing a bathrobe. Could’ve is always one to wear a bathrobe with a hazard zone of red hair perched upon her head.

“Yea, yea, yea,” Could’ve will say, shuffling into the room with a fat orange fur ball tucked under arm. “What the heck do you want, Should’ve…. And WHO are YOU!?”

“We’ve got a guest,” Should’ve will announce.

“My name is….” You’ll start to say.

“Shhhhhh…” Could’ve will hush you and clench your cheeks tight. “We really don’t care! Names don’t matter in this place. Dreams don’t either. And certainly, certainly, not your silly little ambitions. Leave those at the door. Should’ve, get the remote. Judge Judy is on!”

From a corner of the cottage, you’ll watch Should’ve & Could’ve sink into the television, into a world they’ve always known. A world with no pushing, no pulling, no climbing. No maybe. No possibly.

With a creek and a slam, you’ll hear the front door shut, revealing a young girl with a bright green cape. Her fair complexion and midnight-like locks poking out beneath a hood that masks her real beauty.

“Where the heck did you run off to, Would’ve?” Should’ve will holler, not turning back to see her fair sister’s flushed cheeks. “We’ve got Doubt coming over for dinner in an hour and you gotta sweep the floors!”

“I was on a date…” Would’ve will say meekly.

“A WHAAAAATTTT?” Could’ve & Should’ve will scream out in unity.

“I said, a date,” Would’ve will say a little louder.

“With Whommmmmmmmm!?!”

“Try. I was out with Try again.” The name comes out short. Abrupt. You’ll feel the heavy gust of shame whipping through the cottage the moment Would’ve lets the name drop from her lips.

“Try!?!” Could’ve will roar. “You went on another date with Try? You stupid, stupid girl! What have we told you one million times before? Try does not go for girls like you.”

“I know you’ve said that but he’s charming and endearing and…”

“You are different, Would’ve! Can’t you see that? He will notice soon enough and then he’ll break your heart. People don’t try on a girl like you! Give him up….”

“You think you are special and you are not,” Should’ve will chime in. “Stop it already, Stop the Some Day, Stop the Day Dreaming. Stop the Special. Stop the Stand Out. You’ll only get hurt from boys like Try, he’s probably already forgotten your name.”

You’ll see it unfold. See the happiness seep straight from the bones of Would’ve as she stands in the center of her too tiny kitchen and tries to erase Try from her memory. Dismantle his name in some sort of fashion.

Boiling the T in the pot for the dinner made for Doubt.

Sweeping the R under the staircase beside forgotten cobwebs.

Washing the Y away in the sink after the dishes pile up.

She’ll forget the flowers that Try brought her. She’ll scrape away the times when Try showed her how to climb a tree and look down from the top. She’ll take to pushing the felt of the eraser across the chalkboard of the time when she and Try laid down in a pile of leaves and he took her hand in his.

“Would’ve, do you have a middle name?” he asked.

“Well, I suppose it’s Have. My name is really Would Have but people have always called me Would’ve for short.”

“Hmm,” Try said, “Have. It is a really pretty name. What does it mean?”

“I don’t really know. I’ve never really known it and I’ve grown up hearing from my sisters that I’ll never know it. I guess it is word that makes it possible to believe that if you want something then you could hold it, secure it, clutch it. All those things.”

“Are there things like that for you?” Try asked Would’ve, tucking a strand of black hair behind her ear. “Do you want things like that?”

“Well…” she hesitated. “No one has ever asked me that. I don’t really think about it.”

“You should think about it more,” Try said. “I like it better than Would’ve. I will call you that from now on. Have. Have. Have. My Little Have.”

She’ll forget that Try ever told her she was different in a good kind of way, special in a certain kind of way. And you’ll watch her Sink, Sink, Sink into a Stew of Sadness over the Try she’d never have.

And Would’ve, not quite the Have she wanted to be, will see you standing off in the corner, in the Shadows of the Shack where Could’ve & Should’ve rule and she’ll give you a look that stings and pricks with all its sadness, saying, “Go…. Go….Don’t stay here with us.”

And you better go then. You better go then.

“Before they notice you’re gone… Go… Go…”

And as you go, slipping out the door and away from the cottage, Would’ve will tuck a note into the crook of your hand. My dear, you’ll become a messenger for a girl who needs her Try.

“To my Dearest Try,

One day I may know you better, in a way where I am not so afraid of you and I am not so petrified by the good you could bring to me. Right now I am just the Would’ve, stuck beside the Could’ve and the Should’ve that I’ve known my whole life. And I am longing to know something different… longing to know what the world would be like if I could just be Have. Have. Have. Have.

One day, I’ll fly away. One day, I’ll fly away and find you out there in this big, old world. Until then, until then, I’m holding you closer than I ever thought I could admit.


Your Little Have”


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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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