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Aug 14

Dance of the Polar Bear

     Late at night, my igloo is cozy and warm, unlike the Artic outside. Grandmum tucks me into bed, but doesn't leave just yet. She takes a seat on the edge of my bed, and prepares her story telling voice. 
     "What story will it be tonight Grandmum?" I prod, impatient and excited. 
     "Tonight, my dear, on the eve of your tenth birthday, I have a special  story. One that has been passed down through generations, on the listener's tenth birthday." She pauses for dramatic effect. "The Dance of the Polar Bears." 
     Grandmum makes her hand into a fake claw, waves it through the air, and lets out a silly growl. I giggle at her attempted polar bear impression.
     Grandmum waits till my giggles stop, then continues with her story. "This is a dance performed by two or more polar bears, plus their cubs, if they have cubs at the time."
     "Grandmum?" I interrupt. I know it's rude, by the question burns in my throat. "How do the bears know when someone turns ten?"
     Grandmum just smiles at me, like she had anticipated this question. "There is more of a story behind this, too, so I'll give you the quick version. Long ago polar bears were named Arctic Keepers. Their job as keepers was, and still is, to protect and care for all who live on their land. By dancing around one's igloo on their tenth year of life, it is meant to be interpreted as a symbol of their protection."
     When she finishes, I nod, silently signaling that it is okay for her to continue.
     So, she does. "Someday, it will be your job to retell this story." Grandmum affectionately bops me on the nose. "So remember it well!"
     Grandmum stands, then plants a kiss on my forehead. "Goodnight my dear, don't let the howling wolves bite."
     "Goodnight Grandmum." I say sleepily.
     Grandmum blows me one last air kiss, then leaves to go to her igloo. She takes the lantern, leaving me in the dark. I don't mind, I'm about to fall asleep anyway. I drift off to dreamland straining to listen for paws dancing through the snow.

     The next morning, when I wake and emerge from my igloo, I pinch my self twice to ensure I'm not still dreaming. There are polar bear paw prints embedded in the snow, all around my igloo.