Story of a little girl

Sixty six years ago a young man, husband and father, eagerly anticipated the Olympic Games. They were being held in his home country for the first time ever. He was going to this once-in-a-lifetime event being held in the national capital.

Alas, his dream was shattered when his wife went into labour just a few days before. She gave birth to his third child, a daughter. He chose to stay home and welcome the little one into the world. But, tongue in cheek,  he never ever forgot to remind her just how much he had sacrificed by doing so.

As was custom and practice back in those days, young babes were rugged up warmly and put outside in the pram to sleep in the fresh air. Protected from all elements, like an Arctic explorer, there was no exposure to sunlight. The little one developed a severe case of vitamin D deficiency – rickets. Wracked in pain, she slept poorly and only if she could hold her mother’s hand.

She learnt to talk and walk very young due to the constant attention her condition demanded. Running in tall grass, the only way they could tell her whereabouts was by the waving grass. The only way to keep her still long enough to take a photo was to sit her on a potty.

Daily doses of cod liver oil saw a return to health. Fortunately the only sign of deficiency was a depressed breast bone and poor teeth for which she blamed her brother. He sucked all the juice out of Mum, she complained.

Winters were harsh and work was scarce. The father, seeking a better life for his family, travelled to another country on the other side of the world to see if life would be better there. It was. He sent for his wife and children to join him.

It was a foreign land. A foreign language they had yet to learn. No-one could speak or understand it. The little girl, now of school age, vowed and declared she would never, ever learn that horrible language. Except, perhaps, to buy licorice. But as is the way of the young she was the first to become fluent.

The mother, keen to learn as well, implored her children to only talk to her in the new language. In united voice they  said that did  not feel right. So for the rest of the years the family had together, their mother tongue was the language of choice when together.

Much was unfamiliar at first, including the food. They wondered about the sliced white bread that could be toasted. And why  mother could only buy cardamon from the pharmacy. She needed it to bake the family cakes and biscuits. So the children were put to work peeling the cardamon pods and crushing the seeds. This they did by placing them in a tea towel and rolling an empty milk bottle over them. Milk bottles also served as a rolling pin. Life was all about adjusting, making do with what was to hand. But there was plenty of work, sunshine and warmth.

Over the years the family moved many times, following the father’s work. A big land, they lived in temperate climes at first which made the adjustment easier. In later years they also lived in the middle of the dry, arid desert heat, coastal cities and the tropics.

As is the way of life, the children all grew up and made their own way in life, following their dreams and passions. But the family remained strong and true to each other even though at times separated by great distances. The family unit expanded as partners were chosen and  children were born. Life taught them all many lessons of love, grief, hardship, triumphs and joys. Some they shared together with tears and laughter. Others they kept close to their own hearts and family units.

And as is the way of life, the mother and father were laid to rest with much love and celebration. Others too have joined them. The little girl has grown up. She has entered that time of life when there is time and space to enjoy the fruits of her working life.  All is well.

© Raili Tanska

Steps for Peace
The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost,
to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
Eleanor Roosevelt




34 thoughts on “Story of a little girl

  1. It is such a pleasure to read about such a close knit family. We are indeed blessed if we belong to such a family. Reading about vitamin D brought to mind my grand daughter. My daughter lives in Germany, her daughter was born in November, she was given a very small dose of Vitamin D everyday.

    1. As the causes of rickets became understood, treatment and care of children changed. Interestingly here in Australia the incidence of Vit D deficiency is rising due to people being encouraged to use ever stronger sunscreen against skin cancer. There needs to be a better balance, Half an hour out in the sun with enough exposed skin is sufficient.

  2. Lovely – you moved me to tears with this! My daughter was born in Germany in the sixties, and given medication against “the English disease”. When I – being English – asked what that was, I was told rickets, and she was getting vitamin D. I had never come across anyone in England with rickets – we all got our cod liver oil and Vimaltol regularly – so felt a bit offended!

    1. It was common back then in the northern countries where there is little sunshine and the kids were protected against the elements. I’m sorry this moved you to tears – it was not meant to. Really 🙂 I’m fine now. And for the record, as far as I know it was not called the [English disease’ in Finland. Mum had us all on daily cod liver oil despite our howls of protest. It tasted foul. She felt so guilty although there was never anything other than good intended.

  3. A wonderful story from your era(??) and country-land, knowing that the 1952 Olympics were held in Finland, and your father migrated over here first, then brought the rest of the family over. Am I supposed to say happy birthday and best wishes now Raili xx.

  4. Was going to ask the same – is it your story? But I have my answer! Happy birthday btw 🙂

      1. I am, aren’t I… I pride myself on always being the first to wish someone a happy birthday, sometimes as early as 364 days before the occasion 🙂

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