The Little Match Girl

When I was a little girl, my father read bedtime stories to me. I had a large book of fairy tales, given to me by my paternal grandmother as a Christmas gift. It was filled with beautiful illustrations of classic stories, like The Beauty and the Beast, Thumbelina, and Jack and the Beanstalk. I loved the book.  I still have it. It is a magical link to my childhood.

One night, my father picked up the fairy tale book and began to read "The Little Match Girl." It was one of my favorite stories, the one that most haunted me, the one with the most beautiful illustrations, and the most brutal ending. But my father had never read it before. After he finished reading the story to me, he said "sweet dreams" and kissed me good-night, all the usual things he did. Years later, I found out that, once he left my room, he rushed to my mother. 

"Do you know how that story ends?" he asked her. "The little girl--she, she dies," and his eyes began to water. 

My mother still talks about this incident with disbelief and tenderness in her voice. I can just imagine my father on the verge of tears. I'd only seen him cry once, and that was at his mother's funeral. He hid his emotions from me, like so many dads do, but I know he was a sensitive person. I can't remember if he ever read "The Little Match" girl to me again after that night. I think one time was all he could handle.