One of the clearest memories I have of my childhood is being in bed while my mother read to me. My mother read about the lives of saints and martyrs, about Greek & Roman mythology. She even read poems from Federico García Lorca. Nevertheless, the story I loved the most was The Princess and the Pea, by Hans Christian Andersen (Library Collection: 1, 2, 3, 4 / OverDrive & Libby: eBook 1, eBook 2, eBook 3, eBook 4).
I loved all Andersen’s stories, and reacted to them very honestly as my mother went through the entire collection. I laughed at the silliness of the emperor walking naked about town (The Emperor’s New Clothes). I dreamt about the loyalty and beauty of a little bird (The Nightingale). I felt very hopeful after hearing that one can be born “ugly” and flourish later on (The Ugly Duckling). I woke up crying the night my mother read the story about a girl who died on the street hungry, cold, and alone after all her matches went out (The Little Match Girl).
But the story that I could really identify with was The Princess and the Pea. I identified with this story not because I was the Princess, but because I could feel the PEA! Legend has it that since I was very little I didn’t like anything on my bed. If the family were at the beach and the baby (a.k.a. me) were on a blanket, there better not be sand on that blanket! (Which made vacationing on the beach a little tricky, I confess.) Even today, like the princess in the story, I can feel the smallest and most insignificant aggravation on my bed, and I won’t be able to sleep until I get it out. Completely out.
Hans Christian Andersen is still my favorite children’s author; his stories still pluck at my heartstrings. They still make me smile, warm my heart and also break it. Yet, I will still read them all over again because it is like having a cup of coffee while visiting old friends.