To truly appreciate this story, you need to know that my father was an extremely prideful man. My entire family built furniture, and my father followed suit, becoming an upholsterer.
He had endless connections all over the city. I remember once, he took me to a carnival. Of course, he knew most of the people running the booths. Due to this, and due to the fact that I’m ever so cute and charming, I was gifted about ten different stuffed animals.
And do you know what my father did?
He took them from me and gave them back to the people at the booths.
When I asked why, he said, “You didn’t think you’d get to keep them, did you?”
And I thought to myself, well of course I thought so. And now you’ve ruined my day.
I suppose you could say I am the way that I am in spite of my father.
Which brings us to my chocolate cake escapade.
The year is 1937. We’re in Manchester, England, in the height of World War 2. We lived on Every Street, which was, in my eight-year-old opinion, the best street in all of Manchester.
Food was scarce, but not for my family, thanks to my father. He always made sure we had enough to eat, and a roof over our heads. We were not poor by any means.
I went to school every day, except for when I didn’t. (Skipping school to visit the glass-blowing factory with your friend is much more exciting than not skipping school to visit the glass-blowing factory with your friend.) I got decent enough marks on my work.
All in all, I was just like any other student, only much more handsome and interesting.
One day, I went to school without prior knowledge of the day’s events. I thought, I’m going to have a nice day, learn something, perhaps cause some trouble with my friend Albert, and then go home.
The opportunity for these events never came.
You see, my school had a program for needy children, often feeding them and providing them with warm jackets in the colder months. I was always secretly jealous of these children, because who doesn’t want free things?
That day, a bus was sitting outside of my school, surrounded by loads of children. I didn’t realize these were the children who couldn’t afford things, and I didn’t realize that the bus was here for them.
All I could focus on was the adult trying to wrangle the kids, saying, “Everyone who’s having treats today, get on the bus.”
And I thought to myself, Eric, you would like a treat. You would very much like a treat.
So without asking any questions, I got on the bus.
I talked and joked around with all my new friends., who were equally excited for the promise of treats. The bus took us all the way to a park inside of town, where we were wrangled once more. The same adult said, “All right now. We’ve brought you here for a fun day.”
I thought, fun day? Yes please.
And that’s when I saw it.
The most beautiful chocolate cake.
Sitting on a picnic table, ready to be sliced by another adult.
I hurried over as fast as I could, where the adult greeted me and asked, “Are you a part of the program?”
Was I a part of the program?
The program for what?
And then it clicked. I was surrounded by needy children being treated to a good day.
And I was not a needy child.
However, chocolate cake is chocolate cake.
And who were they to deny me, a very cute child, a treat?
So what the heck, I thought.
Let’s get some cake.
I got in line, and made my way to the front, where I was gifted a very large slice of chocolate cake. Oh, delicious chocolate cake. Melts in your mouth chocolate cake.
I put about the fifth bite into my mouth, which was covered in chocolate cake, when I heard the word, “Smile!”
I looked up to see a cameraman, so I presented my most devilish smile. He snapped the picture. I enjoyed the rest of my chocolate cake. And all in all, I had a marvelous day.
It wasn’t until a few days later that the repercussions of my actions came to bite me in the rear.
I was at the breakfast table, enjoying a soft-boiled egg in my favorite egg cup. My father was sitting next to me, reading the paper. Suddenly, he went stiff.
He stared at the front page of the newspaper for a long, long while.
And then he asked me slowly, “Eric, where were you the other day?”
Of course, I had no idea what I was about to see. My father flipped over the newspaper, where I was faced with the headline, “Needy Kids Treated to a Day in the Park”.
And who’s handsome face was on the front page?
None other than yours truly, enjoying his slice of chocolate cake, grinning like a cheshire cat.
My heart skipped a beat.
“You don’t understand,” I tried to say. “I didn’t know.”
“How did you not know?” my father demanded.
So I explained the gathering of the children, the bus, and not realizing what I had done until I was presented with my chocolate cake.
Needless to say, my father was livid. “How could you do this?” he shouted. “Now the neighborhood will think you’re a needy child!”
“But look at how happy I am with my chocolate cake,” I defended. “They’ll look at the picture and think, I’m so glad Eric had a nice day.”
My father couldn’t believe what he was hearing. I was punished thoroughly, and not allowed to leave the house for at least a week after.
So we have to ask, was it worth it?
And to you I say, but of course.