David Bruce: Children Stories

  • • Alex Patrick, Charlotte Pestell, and Helen Ritchie are Brits, and they are sisters—Alex and Charlotte are also twins. When Alex discovered that she had cervical cancer, she started chemotherapy treatments. Unfortunately, they made her infertile. Alex said that becoming infertile “was more upsetting than the cancer itself. Shaun [her husband] and I wanted to start a family and that had been taken away.” Alex’ sisters helped them get a child. Charlotte donated one of her eggs, which was fertilized with sperm from Alex’s husband and then implanted into Helen, who carried the baby to term. In 2005, Charlie was born. Alex said, “He is an angel. I am forever indebted to my sisters.” Alex added, “When my sisters found out [about my becoming infertile], they said, ‘Is there anything we can do?’ Shaun and I said we wanted children as closely related to us as possible. Charlotte said, ‘No problem, you can have my egg.’ It was almost like a joke.” Charlotte said, “The fact that we are twins means such a lot—this is the closest we could get to it being her child. I don’t need my eggs any more. I’ve had my children.” By the way, on 8 October 2008, Charlie got a brother: Oliver, who came into the world just like Charlie did—with three mothers. Once again, one of Charlotte’s eggs was used, Helen carried the baby to term, and Alex and her husband, Shaun, got a baby boy to raise. Alex said, “I’m so unbelievably happy to have a brother for Charlie. He’s a beautiful little boy, and Shaun and I adore him. The best part was introducing him to Charlie, who was very excited. He knows little Ollie came from the same place he did—his Auntie Helen’s tummy. He knows it was because my tummy doesn’t work properly. When Oliver’s old enough. I’ll explain to him the same as I’ve explained to Charlie—that his creation was the greatest expression of love anybody could ever wish for. I feel like the luckiest woman alive to have such incredible sisters.” Helen said, “I would never even consider being a surrogate for a stranger, but for Alex I’m prepared to do everything I can to help her because I love her.” Charlotte said, “From this point on, we’re just the aunties—very happy to leave the parenting to Alex. We’re closer than ever, but to us Alex will always be Charlie and Oliver’s mum. When I look at Charlie, I see my nephew, not my son, although he looks like me. It will be the same with Oliver.”

    • In November 2008 near Tillamook, Oregon, an 11-year-old girl named Maddie McRae helped save the lives of seven people. Two days of heavy rains washed out a culvert and a stretch of road. Two vehicles, including Maddie’s mother’s Ford Expedition, ended up going into the river. Inside the Ford Expedition were Maddie, two siblings, and her mother. The car was washed downstream for a quarter-mile until it ran into a tree. Maddie said, “I knew what was happening. I thought we were going to die because the water was going over our heads. But me and my mom prayed a lot, and we knew God could get us through it.” Maddie crawled through the SUV’s broken front window, reached a tree branch, and made her way to the riverbank. She then climbed an electric fence and went to a nearby farmhouse to call 911. Fire Captain Charles Spittles in Tillamook County said that by the time paramedics arrived, “The river was pounding on the roof and going over the roof.” Rescuers threw an extension ladder over a limb and dangled ropes to Maddie’s mother, Stephanie, who tied her two younger children to the ropes so that the rescuers could lift them to safety. Rescuers then tipped the ladder down to Stephanie, who then crawled along it to get to safety. Rescuers also saved the four people—Jodi Porter, her 9-year-old and 13-year-old daughters, and her father—who were in the other vehicle, a brand-new Ford 500, which entered the water before the McRae family’s car did. Jodi said, “We were coming home from church and came around the corner like we have thousands of times in the 13 years we’ve lived out here and the road was collapsed in front of us. And we went down into the culvert and it collapsed and we were in the creek floating backwards for about a mile.” Jodi used her cell phone to call a friend: “My first thought was to call my best friend because they were right behind us leaving church, and I didn’t want her to fall in. So as we’re floating backwards, I’m dialing her saying, ‘Don’t come, don’t come, you’re going to fall in, too.’” Jodi added, “We crawled on top of the car, but it kept sinking, so we crawled onto a logjam until the firefighters came and got us.” No one was hurt except for a few cuts and bruises. Maddie said, “I just went and looked at the car. It’s beaten up. I don’t get how I climbed on the tree and got off.”

    • Beatrice Coles, a five-year-old girl in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, England, knew what to do when her mother lost consciousness in August 2005 due to low blood pressure. She dialed 999 (the British 911) and opened a door to let the ambulance crew inside. She also called her great-grandmother. Beatrice’s mother, Bridget, who was pregnant at the time, said, “I had been suffering from low pressure and having little fainting fits. At this particular time, I had blacked out completely.” Paul Ducommun, who works at the ambulance service, said about Beatrice, “She gave me the address straight away and then repeated the telephone number a couple of times to me as well and said her mum had collapsed. She said, ‘I can’t unlock the door because the door is a bit stuck.’ So I said, ‘We’ll get the ambulance crew to push it while you’re pulling it.’ I asked her if she’d got any other telephone numbers of her dad, and she gave me all these different numbers. She was brilliant—really good.”

    • “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” — Nelson Mandela

    Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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David Bruce: Children Anecdotes

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Stevie Wonder’s father was a joker. He told his children, who spent the early part of their life in Saginaw, Michigan, which was very cold in the winter, that Saginaw was located only 12 miles from the North Pole. Mr. Wonder said, “I believed that for a long time.” Mr. Wonder himself is a joker. Although he is blind, he once told Jet magazine that he wanted to judge a beauty contest. Once, when he entered someone’s living room he moved his head from side to side and said, “Wow, really nice place you got here.” When he was young, his friends and family played a game with him. They would throw a coin on a table, and he would listen to it and identify it: “That’s a dime” or “That’s a quarter.” He did have difficulty distinguishing between the sound of a nickel and the sound of a penny. When he was young, another joke he played was on his friend Dionne Warwick, who had a red dress that the Shirelles hated, so the Shirelles enlisted Mr. Wonder’s help. He was able to identify her by the perfume she wore and so he would greet her. She asked him, “Hello, baby, how are you today?” He replied, “Dionne, I don’t like that red dress.” Ms. Warwick said, “It scared me, because I know he’s blind and there’s no way in the world this kid can see this dress, but if he didn’t like it I’m takin’ it off. I never wore that dress again. It took two or three years before the Shirelles finally broke down and told me what they’d done.” Mr. Wonder once said, “Being physically blind is no crime, but being spiritually blind is a serious handicap.”

The father piano prodigy Clara Wieck, who married composer Robert Schumann in 1840, was Frederick Wieck, and he could be a hard man to deal with. When Clara was a child, he once thought that she had played a piano piece poorly, and he tore up the music and called her “lazy, careless, disorderly, stubborn, and disobedient.” He also refused to let her play her favorite pieces of music for weeks and returned the music to her only after she promised to be good. She had high standards for piano playing. When she was still a 10-year-old child but playing concerts professionally, she once was given a poor piano to play at a concert. After she had finished, the members of the audience applauded, but she stood up and told them, “Now you are clapping, and I know that I played badly.” As she said that, some tears ran down her cheeks. When she was 12 years old, the famous German writer Johann von Goethe said about her, “She plays with as much strength as six boys.” She was born in 1819 and lived in a sexist age. In 1879, when she was a widow, she taught at an important music conservatory in Frankfurt, whose director wrote about her, “With the exception of Madame Schumann, there is no woman and there will not be any women employed in the Conservatory. As for Madame Schumann, I count her as a man.”

In October 2010, actor Johnny Depp paid a surprise visit to the Meridian Primary School in London, England, while he was dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. He made the visit in response to this letter by nine-year-old pupil Beatrice Delap: “Captain Jack Sparrow, At Meridian Primary School, we are a bunch of budding young pirates and we were having a bit of trouble mutinying against the teachers, and we’d love if you could come and help. Beatrice Delap, aged nine, a budding pirate.” A witness responded hearing “incredible screams of joy” as Mr. Depp and some other actors dressed as pirates entered the school. Mr. Depp went to Beatrice’s class and asked her to identify herself. Beatrice said, “He gave me a hug and he said, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t mutiny today ’cause there are police outside monitoring me.’” Indeed, police were always around the nearby 18th century Old Naval College, a major location in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie that Mr. Depp was then filming. Mr. Depp had previously done a few remarkable good deeds in London. In March 2007, the kidneys of Lily-Rose, his then eight-year-old daughter, failed. She was treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and medical personnel saved her life. Mr. Depp donated £1million to the hospital. Previously, while dressed as Captain Sparrow, he had visited ill children in the hospital and told them bedtime stories.

When Joan Oliver Goldsmith, a volunteer singer in a chorus, was around seven years old, her younger sister made a 25-cent bet with her that she would not be able to go an entire day without singing. (In 1958, 25 cents would buy two Superman comic books.) In the afternoon, Joan forgot the bet and started to sing, “Thumbelina, Thumbelina, tiny little thing.” The adult Joan decided to switch from singing soprano to alto in the chorus. When other people in the chorus asked her about the change, she replied, “Yes, I’ve switched from soprano to alto. I’ve also moved from St. Paul to Minneapolis. I can’t think of any more fundamental changes short of a sex-change operation.” By the way, this is a joke that singers sometimes tell among themselves: “How many sopranos does it take to screw in a light bulb? […] Three. One to screw it in. One to pull the ladder out from under her. And one to say, ‘I could have done it better than that!’”

Chuck Jones directed many cartoons that featured such stars as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Someone asked author Ray Bradbury at his 55th birthday party, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Mr. Bradbury replied, “I want to be 14 years old like Chuck Jones.” Of course, cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny have a life and a reality of their own. Someone once introduced Mr. Jones to a six-year-old boy as the man who draws Bugs Bunny. The six-year-old boy corrected him — “He draws pictures of Bugs Bunny.”

“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” — Robert A. Heinlein