Once upon a time …
by Rita Baird
… there was a poor servant girl who wished to attend the royal ball.
Well, actually, it was her brother-in-law’s wedding … and the servant girl was me — just your typical, everyday, busy suburban mom.
Like the servant girl, I had nothing appropriate to wear to a fancy party. My wardrobe consisted mostly of jeans and T-shirts, because with four kids, I was in “mommy mode” around-the-clock. Just trying to picture myself in an elegant dress was difficult!
Nevertheless, the big day was approaching and no fairy-godmother was coming to magically transform me.
Or so I thought.
Three weeks before the wedding, I packed the kids into the minivan. My mother-in-law accompanied me as babysitter and fashion advisor. She helped me pick out several dresses. Then I hid myself in a dressing room and slipped on the first dress.
Ugh, I thought when I saw my reflection in the mirror. I wanted my jeans and T-shirt back. With a sigh, I opened the door, ready to face the judges.
Like a mouse in a room full of cats, I crept out and stood uncomfortably in front of my children and mother-in-law.
This was not the reaction I had expected.
“Does it look OK?” I squeaked.
My mother-in-law laughed. “OK? You look fantastic!”
My children chimed in. “Mama, you look beautiful!”
I glanced down at my pale legs and bare feet sticking out from under the flowing purple fabric. I swished the skirt a little and watched the ripples. Not able to bear the scrutiny any longer, I mumbled something like, “I’ll go try on another dress …”
I put on a cranberry-red number and tiptoed out.
“Mama, you look even more beautiful!”
I smiled in spite of myself.
My mother-in-law spun her finger in the air. “You need to twirl.”
I turned once slowly and stopped. The dress wrapped itself around me. I turned again, a little quicker. My daughter clapped her hands and exclaimed, “Oh, do it again, Mama!”
So I spun around several times and stopped before I became dizzy.
“Should I try on another?”
The next dress, a satiny mauve piece, elicited more “oohs” and “ahs.” By this time, a saleswoman had joined my small, yet enthusiastic audience. I twirled without prompting.
“I like this one more,” said one child.
“No, I like the red one better,” argued another.
The debate went on for a minute, and we decided that I should try on the red dress again. Once more, I slipped on the fancy dress and glanced at the person in the mirror. And once more, I saw the bare feet and the ponytail, but this time I also saw pink cheeks, bright eyes and an easy smile. I had stepped into a fairytale and been transformed from “Tired Mom” into Cinderella! And my children were my fairy-godmothers!
Feeling more confident this time, I opened the door and stepped out. With a great sigh my daughter said: “Oh, Mama, you look like a mermaid!”
She could not have given me a higher compliment. My self-consciousness melted away — the transformation was complete.
I wore the red “mermaid” dress to my brother-in-law’s wedding and felt lovely — even if the dress was mostly obscured by the baby in my arms and the children huddled around my legs. But that’s OK, because it was never about the dress. The dress served only as a reminder to me that, “I may be a mother of four, but I am still a princess!” And even if I never wear that dress again, I will not forget the moral of the story, or the magical things that can happen, once upon a time.
Rita Baird is first a wife and mother and second a freelance writer. She served as Publicity and Newsletter Coordinator for MOPS in Pleasanton, California, for two years.