Do You Believe in Magic?



Urgency Day 107

500 Things Item 390: The Princess Dress

  • Her-story: c.1987 Fredericksburg, VA thrift store
  • Value: Cautionary Tale
  • Parting Pain: Not a lick
  • Un-possessing: For little Bird’s dress-up box

I didn’t expect to see a duck on the roof.

Riding off on our Mother’s Day bike ride last weekend, a neighbor pointed out a beautiful duck sunning himself on the roof of another neighbor’s house. As a former student at the University of Oregon, I am a Duck-at-heart, but I didn’t expect to see a duck atop a peaked roof, taking in some rays.

I frequently think about expectations. I believe that a lot of the things that delight us or frustrate us are things that defy our expectations. The duck was delightful. De-light-ful…

Are you waiting for the frustrated shoe to drop?

Long ago, I was a princess. I bought a princessy dress at a Fredericksburg, Virginia thrift store and dressed up like a princess for Halloween. I was twenty-five. My darling dressed up as an adoring nerd. I loved that dress. Maybe I loved it a little too noticeably or a little too viscerally, because my future brother-in-law, J**n, gave me a gym-class-gray tee shirt which reads “Princess in Training.”

What was your point, J**n?

The princess dress has since been toted unworn from house to house, all these many years, locked away in a storage trunk which looks very much like a treasure chest. But I wear that tee-shirt every time I clean my house. I am very tidy; I wear that tee shirt a lot.

Last weekend wasn’t just for Mother’s Day. On Saturday, somewhat unexpectedly, the Self-Contained Unit went to his senior prom. It was unexpected, because until recently, he vigorously eschewed many such iconic traditions. But tradition has its place, and his father and I were tickled that he asked a smart, strong, lovely young woman who can go toe-to-toe with our boy. Truly, she has a good head on her very fit shoulders.

It was quite the Event.

Somewhere since the time of my (alas) unrequited senior opportunity, prom has gone from prom to PROM! It is now a three-day weekend of breakfasts and pictures and limos and PROM! and after-PROM! and PROM!-getaways and senior ditch day. This is the expectation. Here is my frustration: There’s a bit of princessing in all this. I wanted to hand out tee shirts.

Do you believe in magic?

I sure do. And I think anyone who says “no” is way over-thinking the question. Think Harry Potter; think dropping a coin in a fountain; think about the birth of your first child. You don’t even have to be a parent: your first child could be a beloved niece or nephew or the dog whose unconditional love can’t be adequately explained. There is magic in those bonds. I’m talking to you, my darling skeptic.

This question, about magic, was one of only four questions asked on Sam’s Vassar housing survey. Three of the four questions,

  1. What are your preferred hours of consciousness?
  2. How tidy are you?
  3. How social is your networking?

(I’m paraphrasing) had four possible responses each.

But the fourth question was binary:

      4. Do you believe in magic?

  • Yes
  • No

I do believe in magic. But not in princesses. I worry that ratcheting up events like prom—sorry, PROM!—into something rivaling a wedding with all the attendant princess-for-a day fuss and expense, creates Serial-Princess-Expectations, which grow with each event.

I am almost certainly fighting a losing battle-of-expectations here, so I will simply donate my own princess dress to a beloved little Bird’s dress up box. Does this undermine my intention? I trust her parents to keep her balanced.

Magic is important, for little girls, and even former Ducks.

former fairy tale Duckling

Footnote: I am delighted to report, the adorable, if unexpected, couple had a lovely, drama-free time at the PROM!


7 Responses to “Do You Believe in Magic?”

  1. melanie Says:

    Great photo! I never saw you as a princess before; it seems obvious to me at this time, now that I’ve seen your true self in the photo, that you are a princess. Princess garb not necessary; we know the truth. How unexpected!

  2. sthibeault Says:

    Honestly, my only recent princess experience was as Princess Leia. No tiara, just a gold bikini… and a Klingon mask. Now THAT’s unexpected.

  3. Donna Says:

    And my most recent princess experience was dressing up as Lady Luck for Halloween. (All metro D.C. residents will remember her as the rather unkempt fairy princess who flits around the edges of the Virginia Lottery.) Believe me, you make a much more attractive princess than Lady Luck. So sweet, diminutive, and truly lovely.

  4. sthibeault Says:

    I remember her so well!! I cannot BELIEVE you were drawn to go trick or drinking…er… trick or treating as that unkempt, disheveled princess, my fabulously kempt sister! The Fractured Fairy Tale Princess, maybe… now there’s a totally expected revisionist history!

  5. Toni Says:

    Sarah also had a drama free prom extravaganza but I’m with you that it raises the bar much too high, even for a princess. I have one more princess to send to prom in 5 years. I’m thinking it might include a weekend in Vegas…..

  6. sthibeault Says:

    Lawd help you, Toni, I’m sure there’s a Vegas tie-in. I’m so glad Sarah’s prom was blessedly drama free.

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