Many years ago on Saturday mornings my sister and I listened to a radio program called Let's Pretend while we dusted and helped with the cleaning. Fairy tales were brought to life as we listened to Cinderella's wicked stepsisters plot against her. Another week it may be Rumpelstiltskin trying to convince the miller's daughter to spin straw into gold for him I don't suppose a radio program like that would be as popular now that most of the fairy tales have been made into animated movies, but I find the children still like to have those same stories read to them. Most of our books have a few pictures to guide their imaginations.
We have five grandchildren who come to visit on most Wednesday evenings while their parents are at choir practice. The older ones like to watch a movie but the younger ones gravitate to the coffee table. Two drawers in it are filled with children's story books. My teacher-sister gave us a stack of Dr. Seuss books that are favorites, but they also like the same fairy tales we heard when we were children
One night recently little Jocelyn turned the tables on me. As soon as she saw me sit down on the couch she came running, pulled open the drawer in the coffee table and retrieved one of her favorite books. It was a tall, slim volume with a compilation of fairy tales and colorful illustrations. She cuddled up next to me and opened the book. I asked if she had picked out a special story she wanted me to read tonight.
"No, Grandma. I am going to read to you," she said in a very matter-of-fact tone as she settled down with the book open on her lap. She is a year away from beginning kindergarten and since it wasn't likely she was able to read stories like this by herself, I expected this to be a session where she pointed out a word she knew or thought she knew and I supplied the next ten. I was pleasantly surprised by what followed.
She opened the book randomly to a picture of a very pretty girl dressed in rags. The story she pretended to read was not very long and was guided by pictures in the book. It went like this:
"Once upon a time there was a poor girl. Her mother died when she was a baby and she had a fake mother who was not very nice. The girl's name was Cinderella." She traced a line of words with a finger as she spoke, then turned a fistful of pages.
"One day she stuck her finger with a pin and fell asleep and slept a very long time. She was soooo beautiful." Another fistful of pages are turned.
"When she woke up she wore a red cape and red hood and liked to take food to her Grandma." I wasn't surprised when she quickly turned several more pages because she never liked to see the wolf hiding behind a tree in the Little Red Riding Hood story and that was only a page away. She continued with her story:
"Cinderella found a little house in the woods and her Grandma didn't live there but there were seven tiny beds in the house and someone forgot to pull the blankets straight and do the dishes so Cinderella did it". She turned another page.
"One day Cinderella's fake mother dressed up like a witch and brought her a basketful of apples. But the fake mother took a bite out of one and it was poison so she fell over dead." Joci is nearing the end of the book and she slips past the last of the pictures without comment. I asked her if that was the end of the story. For the first time in this reading session there was a very long pause before she gave her story an unexpected ending.
"And then Cinderella wanted to do what God said so she looked at the Bible and it said she should marry a prince and so she did and lived happily ever after. The end."
Some folks may regard that as a mutilation of the stories I listened to on those Saturday mornings so long ago. This grandmother prefers to think of it as a condensed version of favorite fairy tales with an original surprise ending.