When I was a child my maternal grandfather would tell us Aesop’s Fable stories before bed. He would tell them not in the once upon a time but rather more as if the events were something he personally experienced or the characters were individuals he knew. That it is important to remember history or be doomed to repeat it has been said in nearly every generation. Recently on a few consecutive cloudy afternoons, a rarity in paradise I might add, I had the chance to reread H.P. Lovecraft’s version of the big frog in a small pond adaptation in his The Shadow over Innsmouth. Here on Sanibel we are approaching the beginning of rainy season when the chirping of amorous frogs is prolific in the twilight hours and so I have spun my own adaptation of the big frog in a small pond, this time the central character is female.
Once upon a time there was a little girl born to parents who already had two sons and had named them after the father and grandfather. The parents Mr. & Mrs. Smyth-Simpson had wanted a little girl very much, not so much because that a daughter would fulfill their family, but rather a female was needed to bestow one of their children with the name of a great and aged aunt that owned several amazing pieces of antique jewelry and the ancestral estate. This great lady was Bertilda Octavia Oglethorpe. When Mr. and Mrs. Smyth-Simpson realized they finally achieved a daughter they named her after the aunt. The infant Bertilda Octavia had such a long name that the two brothers shortened it to Bessie.
The family went along happily without incident only they might have been a bit overindulgent with little Bessie. Harmony was the standard until the clash that occurred when little Bessie learned her initials spelled B.O.S.S. At the ripe old age of 3.5 years old she truly believed she was the boss of anything and everything. She demanded to wear the tiara that was in the family safe and to wear it everywhere to do just about everything. Her mother and father coaxed her down to only wear it on Saturday evening and only for dinner with the stipulation that they would buy her a wardrobe of plastic tiaras, which of course they did.
When Bessie entered kindergarten she did so with her most precious plastic tiara so that the ordinary children would realize her ancestors were in fact very important people. Bessie believed with all her heart her family were the kind of people who governed and ruled over all the little people who did little jobs waiting for the really important people to tell them what to do. Bessie was so important she continued to tell her teachers how to instruct, what the roles of the other children were in relation to her. In many ways Bessie had decided while wearing the real tiara one Saturday evening that she was in reality a displaced queen.
Queens don’t merely boss, they rule their subjects like objects on a chessboard. Bessie would at the beginning of each term decide what each of her classmate’s position was in relation to her and disobedience was not tolerated. She was Bertilda Octavia Smyth-Simpson her people were important and so her words were equally important, she was in charge she thought of literally everything. She told her brothers who they may date and even who they might marry, because she wasn’t having just any female be a member of her family, what if they were even bossier than her?
Bessie needed to maintain her dominance of everyone all the time; she talked louder than anyone that might topple her rule, she belittled and bullied anyone that might think they were dare I mention it equal to her. For Bessie saw no person equal to her because she saw herself on an imaginary dais above others, always.
Her brother Reginald went away to university out of state with fewer and fewer home visits. Her mother was concerned and they all got on an airplane to visit Reginald. Well, when they visited it soon became clear why Reginald had stayed away from home. He was in love with a girl and he dreaded having her meet his family. Lucinda was nothing to hide, she was an artist model, brilliant academic, and both her parents were esteemed professors at the university, so why had Reginald not brought her home to meet his family during the Christmas break?
Well Bessie took one look at this statuesque female that had a radiant complexion and lustrous thick dark hair and she marched over with her best imaginary tiara on her sparse dishwater blonde head to tell Lucinda she needed permission to associate with her brother.
Lucinda had evidently been schooled to expect this type of reception and bent graciously down to shake hands with Bessie and she said, “Pity you aren’t taller, you’ll be swimming in the bridesmaid’s gown. But perhaps the family tiara will make you feel taller.”
Bertilda Octavia Smyth-Simpson had the clarity and judgment to realize she had by traveling away from her hometown got out of her depth for the people in this community were completely unaware of her family’s significance, they thought her an average person of no importance. Bessie could not associate with people that thought her average, or equal to them, she was heir to the Oglethorpe estate. Bertilda quickly returned to her home and lived to an aged state in a great house filled with cats that she cared for wearing the real tiara. Her brother Reginald and Lucinda married and Reginald took Lucinda’s surname of Baxter. They produced two children: Joseph Oscar and Julie Olivia Baxter and donated the family jewelry to a museum, where it continued to collect dust.