Everyone said that she was so pretty. I didn’t think that she was so pretty. I mean, she was okay, but she had short hair. She wore pants. She looked like she could be one of my teachers. She didn’t look like a princess, not at all.
He, of course, didn’t look like a fairy tale prince, either, but I knew that princes weren’t always Prince Charmings. Grandma had told me. ‘You can’t always judge a book by its cover.‘ That’s what you learn from stories like the Frog Prince: just because someone’s a little warty on the outside, doesn’t mean they’re not handsome on the inside. Prince Charles wasn’t handsome, she said, but she was sure that he was very, very nice.
Princess Diana, on the other hand, she was lovely. Such a pretty girl. So sweet. Just like a storybook princess.
I didn’t see it. What was so special about her? She had feathered bangs, just like my friend Wendy, who was a whole year old than me and very sophisticated, but not, you know, special. not like a princess.
We watched the wedding together, my grandma and me. We got up really early in the morning, and grandma let me have alphabet cereal, and she drank coffee, and we had blankets pulled up over our knees and we watched as Lady Diana’s carriage rolled through the street – it was a real carriage, like the ones you read about, maybe not the kind that come from fairy godmothers, but a real carriage, with big wheels and flags – and we watched as she got out, in that big fancy dress – a princess dress, for sure, but her hair still looked ordinary – and walked up the stairs and into the church and all the music and Grandma dabbed at her eyes a bit and said that she hoped that Nana was watching this from heaven, because Nana would have loved it. I said I hoped so, too.
Grandma sipped her coffee and made a little noise in her throat and said that someday I would have a wedding, too, maybe not as fancy as that, but it would be really nice and I would be just like a princess.
I won’t have hair like that, though, I said. I’ll have princess hair.
You’ll have lovely hair, no matter what, she said.
Princess hair, I insisted.
Being a princess doesn’t have anything to do with hair, she said.
I’ll be a princess when I get married?
You’re a princess now.
Yes, to me you are.
When I get married…
You can have a fancy dress and be all dressed-up like the princess that you already are. But you’re already a princess. To me.
You’ll be at my wedding, right, Grandma?
I hope so.
You will be.
She wasn’t. She died the following year. But she was there, in my princess-heart, in that part of myself that knew, because of her, that my pretty dress that day was only window-dressing, that I was a princess already, no matter what I looked like. Just like that princess with the feathered bangs so many years earlier, who was princess, my grandma told me, because she was loved. Just like me.
Brought to you by the weekly Friday Flashback coffee klatsch. This week, we’re jawing about “Where Was I When…?” (something big and important happened in the world – Elvis died, John Lennon died, the Challenger crashed, there was that solar eclipse, whatever – our parents did it with JFK, right? And if our parents did it…) Join and in and let us know – links, comments, whatever floats your boat – how to find you.
“Where Was I…” posts as of late morning: