Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Three Little Rileys

[A brief note on Wednesday’s blog, “The Big One”. My personal scientific consultant informs me that the name of the anti-radiation pill is potassium iodide, not sodium iodide. Potassium iodide, he says, is used to ward off radiation sickness; sodium iodide is used to detect radiation.]

If I haven’t mentioned it before, my parents encouraged reading. They were great readers themselves (Mom still is). In our household, my father was like the principal and my mother was the teacher. Dad would tell my mother what book he wanted me to read and she would have me read it.

Glenn Beck’s show last night brought back memories of The Three Little Pigs. I’d forgotten until the show jogged my memory. When I was little, before elementary school, my mother got us the sanitized, homogenized, Disney-version of the The Three Little Pigs.

Listening in, my father asked her what she was reading to me.

“’The Three Little Pigs’,” my mother answered.  She showed him the cover.

“That’s not ‘The Three Little Pigs’,” he said. “It’s not the real ‘The Three Little Pigs” by the Brothers Grimm. I want her to hear the real story of the ‘The Three Little Pigs.’”

Before I knew it, we were off to the local library. The version my father picked it out didn’t have any colorful illustrations of smiling pigs on the cover. The book was rather old and its small illustration faded.

In this version of “The Three Little Pigs,” just as Glenn told you, the pigs were under menace from the Big Bad Wolf. They were warned. The last little pig looked at his brothers’ handiwork and told them, “Don’t come crying to me when your houses of straw and wood collapse.”

I remember the singing, dancing pig very well. That was me, for sure. At that age, I wanted to be a Broadway star and wasn’t very inclined to memorize things or listen to instructions. The book had an illustration of a dancing pig, too.

The only trouble was, that little piggy never got a chance to run crying to his brother. On the next page, the wolf ate him. His wooden-headed, lazy brother met the same fate. I was distressed on all accounts. Why, that could have been me and my younger brother.

The third little pig built a house of brick and mortar, and his door wasn’t blown in. He felt bad about his brothers but his conscience was clear; he had warned them. I asked my mother why they couldn’t have just gone to the third pig’s house, like they did in the other versions? Why didn’t he help them?

Mom shrugged ruefully, “He did try to help them. They didn’t have a chance to run away, dear. The wolf blew down the doors of their houses and ate them. There’s nothing their brother could have done for them. They didn’t listen to their brother.”

“So if I don’t want the wolf to eat me…”

“Don’t worry. It was a fairy tale. No wolf is going to eat you,” Mom said.

“But what if one does try to eat me?” I persisted. “If I don’t want the wolf to eat me, then I have to work hard and do what I’m supposed to do when I’m supposed to do it, like Andy [my older brother] does?”

“That’s right.”

My father added, “Yes and you’re the little pig that sings and dances instead of doing her chores.”

“Jaaaaack…..”

“That’s why I wanted her to read the right version.”

“Your father’s right, though,” Mom added. “You spend too much time singing and dancing when you should be cleaning your room and picking up your clothes.”

“If I’m the first little pig, then is Charlie the lazy pig? And Andy’s the third pig?”

“Well, most of the time.”

“But what if I was really in trouble, if a wolf was going to eat me? He wouldn’t help me? I couldn’t go to his house?”

“Well of course Andy would help you and certainly you could go to his house. It’s only a story.”

It may only have been a story, but it was a scary one that made the impression upon me my father wanted it to make. If you don’t work hard and secure your future, you’ll be out of house and home, and the wolf will eat you.

Still, even into adulthood, the desire to sing and dance (which they say I inherited from a great-grandmother) clung on. I knew I didn’t want to live my whole life just working and never doing anything happy. I loved making music and my nocturnal activities would prevent me from succeeding in one of those climb-the-corporate-ladder careers.

I also knew I was too creative and outspoken for the corporate world. Andy was perfectly suited to it (he’s such a bowl of jello) and Charlie, not at all. To Charlie, an office building is just a great big cage.

So I secured my future my purchasing an affordable home (it’s brick) on the presumption that I wasn’t much better at being caged and bowing obsequiously than my younger brother. I just had to keep going until I found a job that would suit my personality and my personal mission in life – making other people laugh.

I found the place and the job. Well, the job isn’t going to last out another year. The wolf has huffed and puffed and blown the door down on happiness at my company. The whole reason I accepted a job there was because a friend who worked at the company assured me it was a happy company. The initial job was awful, but then I was accepted into an internal public relations job where I was to write happy stories and take happy photos at happy events (the few unhappy events they had, they didn’t want photos anyway).

But now the company has decided misery loves company and they’re going to join the rest of the business world in making their employees miserable. Which means I’m definitely out of a job by the end of the year (they’re laying off most but not all of the writers).

However, and here’s the twist on the Three Little Pigs – I didn’t listen to my brother, the third little pig when he said I should buy as big a house as I could get my hands on. I told him not a chance; I was going to buy a house that I could afford, maintain, and not (hopefully) lose in the event of bad luck or a lay-off. My mortgage, as of this month, is five years away from paying off. I could do it now if I really needed to, but all my financial experts say no, to just keep making the monthly payments as usual for as long as I can.

The third little pig, big brother, was given land by his in-laws. He then built the biggest house of wood that he could fit on the lot. Proud of his carpentry and other building skills that he learned from our grandfather, he built the house himself (with our help).

But then along came the Big Bad Wolf, a rich guy who lured my ex-sister-in-law away with the promise of a life of luxury. She’d never do housework again as long as she lived. As soon as my nephew reached his majority, she packed her bags and left. They couldn’t sell because it was just when the housing bubble burst. My brother bought her ought, but he had to take out a second mortgage to do it. The house was devalued considerably, which was good for big brother and bad for the big bad wolf.

Still, she huffed and she puffed and she blew his house and life in. My older brother will be in debt well into retirement. We told him not to build that house, but he wouldn’t listen.

Meanwhile, the second little pig doesn’t have his own house. He lives with Mom. He spends what little money he makes on who knows what. He wants the house, but my older brother and I don’t know what he thinks he’s going to buy us out with. We think he may insist that because he’s lived with and taken care of Mom all these years (he has, but he’s also annoyed her to death during that long spell) that he deserves the house without paying anything for it.

The second little pig can huff and puff until he’s blue in the face, but if he thinks the third little pig is going to agree to that, then I’m Little Red Riding Hood. Aren’t only children lucky? When that day comes, it’s going to be an interesting situation. I’ve begged Mom not to die before one of them does, but I don’t think she can hold out that long. These are the same brothers who had to share a bedroom when we were young and engaged in nightly boxing matches once their bedroom door shut and the parental footsteps died away. Too bad I didn’t sell tickets; I wouldn’t have to worry about being laid off.

Children need to be taught about reality, and not confuse fairy tales with the news, their stuffed animals with the real thing, and play money with real money. They should be made to earn their allowances through chores and later on, part-time jobs. Discipline and responsibility are lost values; we need to find them again, and soon.

The wolves aren’t just huffing and puffing at the door – they’re howling.



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