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Whatever That Is
(a story for children)


Once upon a time, there were two young Swedish girls, Maria and Ann-Kristin. It was the beginning of summer, and they had just arrived at Maria's family's summerhouse.

They were walking around, gathering wildflowers in the field behind the house, something had not done since last year, when a neighbor, Sonya, come up to them and said, "There is a new farmer who just moved here with his family. His name is Christoferson, and his wife makes the very best funnel cake in the world."

"That sounds marvelous," said Ann-Kristin, "let's go visit his wife and give here these flowers as a welcome gift. Perhaps she might give us some cake."

"Oh, yes," said Maria. "That sounds wonderful. I should very much love some funnel cake (whatever that is). I hope she gives us each a big piece."

"It is most generous of you to give your flowers to Fröken Christoferson," said Neighbor Sonya. "I have always thought that the two of you are so well-mannered and polite. However, there is something you should know. Fröken Christoferson is actually a very reserved person."

"Since you don't know her yet, if you will follow my suggestion, you will simply welcome her to the neighborhood, give her the flowers, and decline anything in return. She will, out of politeness, most likely offer you something to eat. However, you must make some excuse and say no, unless she insists and asks you a second time. That will be much more comfortable for her."

"I am sure," continued Neighbor Sonya, "that once she gets to know you, she will give you as much cake as you want whenever you call upon her. Just let her get to know you first. She is quite a reserved person, you know."

Neighbor Sonya then waved goodbye to Maria and Ann-Kristin, and quoted a Swedish proverb (which I will not relate here, because I have trouble translating it into English).


So Ann-Kristin and Maria finished gathering wildflowers, making sure they had an extra-large and extra-beautiful bouquet. Then they walked to the house of the Farmer Christoferson and knocked on the door.

The door opened and they were greeted by a pleasant, apple-cheeked older woman who smiled. "Hej mina barn," she said. "What have you got there?"

"Hej Fröken Christoferson," said Ann-Kristin. "I am Ann-Kristin and this is my friend Maria. These are wildflowers."

"Yes, Fröken Christoferson," said Maria, "we picked them for you to welcome you to the neighborhood."

"Well, ain't that most gol-darned, sweet thing I have ever seen in all my born days," said Fröken Christoferson, who, if she had one fault, it was that she watched too much American TV. "I'm grinnin' like a possum eating a sweet potato. Why don't y'all come in and set a spell and we can chew the fat for a bit?"

"We would love to," said Ann-Kristin.

"Yes, thank you," said Maria.

So the girls went in and, for the next half hour, chatted amiably with Fröken Christoferson. They were having a lovely time, but Maria began to get distracted because she could smell a delightful fragrance coming from the kitchen. It smelled like nothing she had ever known before, and soon she found it difficult to concentrate on the conversation.

Fröken Christoferson must have noticed something because she changed the subject.

"Ann-Kristin and Maria," she said, "I have just this minute finished baking a very large funnel cake (whatever that is). Perhaps the two of you would like a nice big piece." And she went out to the kitchen returning with a platter that had picture of a rooster on it, on top of which was a large cake.

Maria's eyes were round and large, like saucers, as she stared at the cake. Ann-Kristin's mouth started to water just from the smell. Never had the two girls seen such a wonderful cake. In fact, they had never even dreamed that such a cake could exist. Moreover, they both suddenly realized that they were ravenously hungry from spending hours outside gathering wildflowers.

"Would you each like a big piece?" said Fröken Christoferson, as she put the cake on the table.

At that moment, there was nothing that Maria wanted more, in the whole world, than a piece of that cake. She looked at Ann-Kristin, who looked back at her, and she could see that her friend felt the same way.

However, they both remembered the advice of Neighbor Sonya so, sadly, with great regret, Ann-Kristin said, "That is most kind of you, Fröken Christoferson, but we must be leaving now to go back home for supper."

"As much as we would like to, we should not eat funnel cake (whatever that is) right now," said Ann-Kristin, "as it would spoil our appetite for the wonderful surströmming that Maria's mother has made for us."

"Yes," agreed Maria. "I am sure your funnel cake (whatever that is) is simply lovely, but my mother's surströmming is so tasty, we really shouldn't ruin our appetite."

Both girls then waited, silently, to see what would happen. After a few moments, Fröken Christoferson sighed. "Well," she said, "if that is the case, I won't insist," and she put the cake back in the kitchen.

"We must go now," said Maria.

"Yes," said, Ann-Kristin, "It was good to meet you."

And the two girls left.


That evening, after Fröken Christoferson and Farmer Christoferson had finished their simple, but sturdy Swedish supper, Fröken Christoferson went to the kitchen and brought in a huge, wonderful cake. "Would you like some dessert now?" she said.

Farmer Christoferson took a deep breath, and his eyes lit up. "I should like nothing more than a big helping of funnel cake (whatever that is)," he said, cutting two large pieces, one for himself and one for his wife.

"By the way," said Fröken Christoferson, "I had the most lovely visit with two young girls from the neighborhood just one hour ago. They are Maria and Ann-Kristin, and they brought me some beautiful wildflowers."

"How nice of them," said Farmer Christoferson. "But I must say that, with two young girls having just visited, I am surprised there is any cake left at all. Did you not offer it to them?"

"Of course I did," said Fröken Christoferson. "However, earlier today, I ran into Neighbor Sonya, who told me about the two girls. Apparently, they are quite reserved and are not comfortable accepting food from other people until they know them well. Neighbor Sonya told me that if I offered them a piece of cake and they refused, I must not insist, as it would make them uncomfortable."

"It is a shame," continued Fröken Christoferson, "because I very much liked the two girls, and I was hoping they would enjoy the cake. In fact, I had heard they might be coming to visit, and I made it especially for them."

"Oh well," said Farmer Christoferson, with a big Swedish smile. "Behandla andra som du själv vill bli behandlad. It is a shame but, still, not so bad as all that. Now there is more dessert for me."

And he helped himself to another large piece of funnel cake (whatever that is).

The End

Stories by Harley Hahn