WC’s Epic Fails: The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf
When WC was 8 years old, shortly after the start of the Holocene Period, the family took a vacation from Bethel to visit the grandparents in California. WC’s Grandma Ruth, a fearsome old woman, took the opportunity to read WC the first and only story she ever read him. Seriously, WC has no memory of her showing any interest beyond complaining WC was too skinny earlier. And there sure weren’t any stories afterwards.
The story she chose? The heartwarming Hans Christian Anderson fable, The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf. If you don’t know the story, a vain little girl named Inger throws a loaf of bread in a mud puddle, to step on so she doesn’t get her new shoes muddy. Instead, she sinks to Hell, where she serves as a statue for decades, starving every minute. Not until an angel sheds tears for her can she return to earth. And then only as a “sea sparrow,” who must find enough crumbs for other birds to make up the loaf of bread she wasted. Only then can she ascend to heaven.
You can tell it is a children’s fairy tale. Bad children are tortured and terrorized. The moral is hammered into a little kid’s skull with the subtlety of a jackhammer.
When Grandma Ruth was finished reading she asked WC what the story meant. WC told his grandmother, “God tortures little kids.” It didn’t go over well. WC got yelled at and spanked for being rude to his elders. Not for the last time. WC was sternly warned that if he didn’t watch his smart mouth he’d go where Inger went.
The warning didn’t work. WC didn’t learn to watch his smart mouth and it gets him in trouble to this day. He hasn’t sunk to the Christian Hell just yet, although several of WC’s more pious friends seem to be worried about the possibility.
Grandma Ruth is dead some 50 years. An orphan herself, she wasn’t especially religious, didn’t attend church and never in WC’s hearing talked about anything but trivia. Her one attempt to put her smart-ass grandson in his place only made the situation worse. She died two years later. Her husband, Grandpa Mike, lived another 15 years, remarried twice and died at age 92. WC saw him a year and a half before he died, and took him to watch his beloved Dodgers play the hated San Francisco Giants at old Candlestick Park.
On the drive back to his home, WC asked him, “Do you miss Grandma Ruth?”
He answered, “I miss my teeth a lot more than I miss that woman. The only thing good ever came out of her was your mother.”
We talked about baseball the rest of the drive back.