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Greta's childhood stories


* Greta and the fighting men
* Greta and the red balloon


Greta and the fighting men

One night in winter 1917, when it grows dark very early, she went to meet her father on his return from work. Greta was 12 years old.  There was a heavy mist on Södermalm and snow on the ground, and by the hazy light of a gaslamp bracketed to the wall she saw two men fighting. One of them was a Swedish giant, so huge and powerful that his tall, thin adversary looked like a pygmy in comparison.

They were free-swinging their punches, and sweat was pouring down their faces. The tall, thin man was her father. Paralyzed by fear, she watched them without saying anything, until her father fell in the snow and she was suddenly overwhelmed by blind rage. She threw herself on the giant, screaming, "Why are you hitting him? You mustn't do that! Please let him go!"

Greta 1917

The giant wrenched himself away from her, stared down at her and then at her father, and said, "All right. Your kid is sticking up for you. I'll let you go. Now go away, both of you!" As she walked home with her father, she was sick with fear and humiliation.

She knew her father drank; but so did all Swedish workmen; and when her father came drunk into the house, her mother knew how to deal with him and usually sent the children away until he recovered. There was nothing new in his drunkenness and his occasional brawling fits of temper. What was new was the humiliation of knowing that her father, whom she adored, was weaker than other men and could be beaten and flung down into the snow with impunity.

She remembered his pitiful wide-swinging blows and the look on his face as they returned home together. Of all the traumatic events in her life—and there were many—this was perhaps the most terrible, the most difficult to live with.

Source: Garbo book


Greta and the red balloon

One day in June 1918, she dawdled in the park on her way to school, playing with the squirrels. The church bells struck nine, and she continued to play for some time, dimly realizing that it was already too late for school and she would probably have to find a credible excuse, but none was forthcoming. She abandoned the idea of going to school, squared her shoulders, and decided to go wandering through the Latin Quarter of Stockholm.

Someone had told her you could see Italians there, and they made brightly colored balloons, toy soldiers, and little painted villages you could hold in the palm of your hand. It took her till the early afternoon to find the Italians, and when she found them, she struck up a friendship with a balloon maker. She was still talking with the balloon maker when the late afternoon bell rang at the school.

Greta 1918

Her brother and sister waited for her at the school gates in the hope that she would turn up, and then went home without her. When it grew dark and there was still no sign of her, the police were informed and search parties were sent out. At ten o'clock that night Greta Lovisa wandered dreamily home, trailing a large red balloon. Her father threw his arms around her, and suddenly the balloon she was holding close to her body burst, and she began to cry.

To her the most terrible thing that had happened was the bursting of the balloon. She was more distressed by the fate of the balloon than by her own fate the next day when she was called before the class and spanked across the teacher's knee for being absent without cause.

This incident left a serious blemish on her school record, where it is noted that in the half-year ending in June 1918, she was once absent without the permission of the school or of her parents. She never played truant again.

Remarkably healthy, she missed going to school only sixteen days during the entire seven years she attended the Catherine grammar school. Sometimes worse things happened.

Source: Garbo book

Garbo Stories - Introduction


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