It was Mrs. Miller who first did it; elementary school teacher, tall iconic American woman from my childhood who always wore perfectly coordinated outfits, shoes, purses, earrings, beaded necklaces and bangle bracelets. If she was lemon, she was lemon from head to foot, it went the same for orange sherbert, grape, lime or cherry. Mrs. Miller didn’t dabble in complimentary colors, with her it was full tone on tone, from head to toe, and usually the color of fruit.
Long before I had her as a teacher and long before I learned Mrs. Miller attended something called a Women’s College in a far off magical land, somewhere called, back east, she started it. It is all her fault, and I have no problem throwing her under the bus.
It was Mrs. Miller who planted the far-fetched idea in my thirsty and fertile imagination.
Mrs. Miller made me believe in Fairy Tales.
Ever the graceful child, I tripped while boarding the bus, and Mrs. Miller, the teacher on bus patrol duty grabbed my shoulders, and my hand, steadying me, then gave my hand it a little squeeze, before letting it go.
That’s when it happened.
Her perfectly matching manicured hand looked down at my chewed fingers and exclaimed,
“Prince Charming will take one look at these fingers and run the other way! You’ll never catch him if you don’t stop biting your nails!”
hey…wait a minute… prince charming is from a fairy tale…and fairy tales aren’t real…are they?
I climbed the steps onto the bus, headed straight for my seat in the almost back, the one right above the wheel, the one with the bump where I could put my feet flat on the floor and not have them dangle.
Being short always meant dangling feet, I still hate being reminded that my feet rarely hit the floor.
Prince Charming, I knew that guy. From what I read he was kinda strange, riding around all day with a glass shoe looking for a girl who was right under his nose all the time, seemed kinda dense to me. Don’t even get me started on the glass slipper thing, just who would wear a glass shoe? I preferred Bilbo or Gandalf, flying dragons, swords and adventure, give me kids play’n hide and seek in a wardrobe and finding a new magic world, give me spiders named Charlotte who spins webs of words and save Wilbur, give me wind funnel storms that carry away your enemies and your house and land you in Oz. Those were my stories.
My stories were found the library bound editions, thicker, plain, in solid colors, with the titles embossed on the spine. No pictures needed, a few little drawings were nice though, like the fancy letters that opened each chapter, or trees that started out bare and filled out full, a bird across the corner of all the pages, one you could flip between thumb and finger, faster and faster until it flapped its wings and flew off the page.
My stories had thick cotton rag pages, ones that softened with each hand who turned the page, and had soft uneven edges, as I sat and waited for my bus stop, my fingers rubbed across the whispery edges of my new library borrowed finds, and wondered…
Prince Charming? Could it be possible?
My mother rolled her eyes after she read the titles of my new treasures and said, “When are you going to read real stories?”
Real stories were The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew or The Bobbsey Twins. Her real books didn’t have magic, or dragons, or girls who sprouted wings and flew out the window…real books were real people stories.
I knew then that my mother had lost her magic, her believing, but I also knew Mrs. Miller still had hers.
I wondered which way I would go, and if I would always believe.
I shrugged, grabbed the books and headed to my room, opened the window and made for the roof.
If fairy tales were real, there were going to be some much-needed changes; Charlotte never dies; Dorothy figures out about the ruby slippers, and chooses to wander through Oz, a Knight Errant, saving the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion anyway. Prince Charming is an idiot, and he is out. Cinderella grows a spine, leaves her lazy step-mother and meets up with Bilbo and goes to Rivendell to meet the Elves. Once there she learns to put down her broom and shoot a bow, and never ever has to wear glass slippers again.
Poor Cinderella, her feet must have been killing her.