The other day I walked up a flight of stairs in a store. Two little girls stood with their mother at a register at the top of the stairs, each dressed in a different princess costume. The older one, about age six, watched me climb the stairs, pirouetting a few times to make the skirt of her dress fly out and stopping each round-about to catch my reaction. She continued to watch me intently after I reached the top, and as I passed her by, I smiled and waved at her. A look of deep earnest washed over her face.
“It’s like this,” she instructed, cupping her hand slightly and showing me her best parade wave.
“Yes it is!” I exclaimed with some great excitement, and I stopped to offer her a proper wave in return.
It wasn’t so long ago I was six. I’m not going to lie. I still want to be a princess, and I hope that shows through when I write. But the thing of it is, it was never clearer to me than today, that I was at that moment, in the presence of a real princess. She was entitled to her royalty. It didn’t matter that I was almost five times her age. I wasn’t waving properly and I got told.
That kind of earnest dedication to our imaginary thrones belongs in our hearts. It’s the magic in the dreams we dare to believe in, and ultimately the fabric of who we become. I was punished for imagination as a child. I grew up convincing myself that I didn’t have any such thing, and hiding my desire to write fiction from my parents until just a few years ago. In spite of my parents, my father mostly, I clung to my desire to be those things I wasn’t allowed.
Today, I was reminded that I am not the only one who grew up with no princess dream. Some of us grow up with twisted and impossible dreams. Some of us grow up terrorized by the things we experienced as children and afraid of our dreams. And some of us are simply taken before we ever have the chance to grow up period.
The huge question for me is… why does one person deprived of her (or his) dreams choose to write fiction, and another choose to retaliate against the world with a horribly violent act?
One of my great heroes in life is John Lennon. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t consider him a martyr. And it’s not because my name is Flower Schilde and he was a 1960s musician or anything like that. It’s just I don’t know anyone I’ve met in any age group who doesn’t know who he is. Everyone knows the words to one or more of his songs. The rage of unprecedented fan fare he generated has never really been matched. And through all of that, what he wanted to matter was a message.
“Love is the answer.” ~ John Lennon
Today, a man who likely never had a princess dream went into an elementary school and ended the lives of beautiful little princesses – or Spider men or whatever – and left many others, child and adult alike, with their dreams torn away from them.
The country, the world, has already reacted in many diverse, angry, and justifiably hurt ways. I’ve seen everything from assaults against the American President, to rallies calling for immediate firearm bans. Parents are afraid to send their children to school and their children are afraid to go. Facebook is a mess of prayer requests. Once again, a man is dead and people are glad. I hear people asking how we can prevent this, and I see people shaking their heads without answers.
For all of us… John Lennon’s simple four-word message echoes in my head, and the thing I really want to say comes from the mouth of a six-year-old princess.
“It’s like this.” ♥
© 2012 Anne Schilde
Author’s note: Given it to write over, I would have chosen Martin Luther King Jr. from among the many who have reminded us of this simple message. I had forgotten he said it and it was easy to remember John Lennon because I hear the song all the time on the oldies station.