Gerthe Herlin is 93 and lives close to her daughter Lone Hansen. Though she isn't writing much anymore or painting, she continues to be actively involved with life--shopping, going out to share meals with friends and always being open to a good political conversation. "A Fairytale" is a poem she wrote in 1994. The poem is followed by a number of her paintings. Many of her paintings have been marketed as cards, under the name, Mor Mor (grandmother in Danish).
Once upon a time, many years ago
a book was handed to me.
“What’s this, a book with blank pages?” I asked.
“It is the book of your life yet to be written” came the answer.
“Like a diary?” I asked.
“Sort of. You can paint, write, fill the pages but
you have to follow the laid out pattern.”
“The pattern? Does that mean that I don’t have
any choices?” I asked.
“Not exactly, you will have some choices,
but as a whole the pattern has to be followed.”
“Will I be able to see the pattern?” I asked.
“No, you won’t be able to see it now, later on it will become clear.
In the meantime you’ll get the feeling
how to fill the pages” the answer came.
“It sounds interesting. I can barely wait to begin’ was my enthusiastic reply.
Over time the blank pages disappeared,
one chapter after another filled the book.
Chapters filled with love and passion,
joy and laughter.
Some were filled with
grief and sorrow.
Some with high expectations,
disappointments and hardship.
Everything life had to offer.
Halfway through the book I stopped
to take a closer look at the written pages.
“It looks good, I accomplished a lot.”
I said proudly.
“Not as much as you should have.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“You were given a pretty good brain,
But you never used it, you followed your heart too much.”
“Is that so bad?” I asked.
“No, but a combination of heart and brain is better.”
“You screwed up too many times,
went down the wrong path
even if your brain told you to stop,
to turn back, to chose another road.”
“Oh, I remember.
I paid a high price for that.”
“Too high. It could have been avoided
had you used your brain.” The answer was.
“Maybe it can be corrected?” I asked.
“It’s a mess, I like to tear out those pages.”
“That’s the problem,
once it’s part of the book
it can never be corrected or erased,
you can only learn from your mistakes.
Try to do it right the next time,
that’s if there is a ‘next time’.”
“Well, obviously, I’m not perfect” I said.
“Nobody is or expected to be.”
The answer was.
“That’s not what life and your book
is all about, anyway.”
“Do you remember Per Gynt?
The play by Henrik Ibsen?”
“Of course, I do.
I studied it, I liked it.
What does Per Gynt have to do
with my life? He lived a fantasy.
I don’t at least not all the time.”
“Not all the time but often you do, too often.
If you want this book to end,
to have a happy ending like a fairytale,
like fairytales always have
you must change.
Thanks to Lone’s daughter Lone for helping to pull together all of the material contained in this Playback, Steve Stolee for his filming of Grethe, Laura Mandracchia, Grethe’s granddaughter for providing additional research material, and Lynn de Vree for her editing.