When I was six years old, I decided that I wanted to be a Princess for Halloween. I suppose that's a fairly normal thing for a little girl to want to be on Halloween, but I sincerely doubt it was the same for me as it was for every little girl. For some reason, and I still can't fathom why, I took the costume above and beyond an act.
I had my mother make me the prettiest dress with material I picked out myself. Ice blue with silver tulle over it to make it float, I was determined to be the best princess in the world, even better than Cinderella. But as beautifully as my gown turned out, my favorite part was, without a doubt, the crown. I loved that thing more than all of my toys in the box, more than all of my dolls, more than the little vanity I'd been given for Christmas the previous year. I'm not sure why I loved it so much. It was just a piece of plastic with rhinestones studding it, not even one of the really pretty metal ones that you see on Prom Court. (I'd love to show you what this thing looked like, but there is absolutely no picture of it to be found anywhere on the great Internet. Shocking and disappointing.) But I still loved it.
So much, in fact, that I took to wearing it everywhere. I wore that thing to school, to the store, to movies, to visit friends, to the doctor's office. I even wore that silly thing to Sunday School. If my Mom dared to suggest that I leave it at home just long enough for us to go to dinner, I refused and made such a fuss that Dad would tell her to just leave me alone, and she wisely gave in on the point.
There was nothing I loved more than sleeping with my long blond hair in braids so that my hair was wavy the next day, and then placing my pretty crown on top of my gold hair. I loved the effect of the silver against the gold, I loved the way the waves in my hair made it sit just right. I loved how the shape of my face (a heart, I've been told) looked so lovely with the way the crown sat. I loved the way I felt like a real Princess. (I know I was a vain little creature.) I would stare at my reflection for hours on weekends in my vanity's mirror admiring my pretty crown.
Daddy thought it was adorable that I loved it so much. So did my teacher, and our neighbors, and my Sunday School teacher and the volunteers who watched us kids on the bus on the way to and from Sunday School and had us sing songs and answer Bible questions. Almost everyone thought my love of the crown was adorable, if a little odd. But maybe not. Maybe all children go through a stage like that where they are attached to something that seems silly to everyone else. I myself can't really explain why I developed such an affinity for that crown. I only know that I never left it at home. From the moment I woke up until bath time, it was on my head, and from bath time to bed time, it was right back up there. I probably would have worn it in the bath if I hadn't worried about ruining it.
I wore it for over a year and a half, and showed no signs of stopping. My parents didn't see that it didn't any harm, so they indulged my fancy. Nobody ever really had a problem with it. Other children occasionally commented, saying things like, "Halloween is over" and "that crown is stupid, why do you wear it?" But I was a smart kid and didn't care what other people thought of me or what I wore. All that mattered was that I knew how nice it looked on me. Daddy called it "expressing your individuality," and Mom called it "marching to your own drummer." Aside from a few incidents with Relly trying to take my crown, there were no problems with it.
But then one day Mom and Daddy decided to go out for a while, just the two of them, to visit some friends, and they had a one of Mom's friend come to baby sit us. She lived a few houses over, and she was in her early twenties. She didn't have any children, and she wasn't married, and I blame her lack of family for what she did.
The first hour or two went well, but then around two o'clock she decided she wanted all of us to take naps. Relly and I were entirely too old for naps. I was seven, she was eight. Relly, however, was far less confrontational than I was at that time (that would change the next year), and she meekly turned to go up stairs after the twins, though she hadn't been subjected to naps for over a year.
I, on the other hand, was having none of it. "No, Relly and I don't take naps. We are too big." I stamped my foot, crossed my arms across my chest, and raised my chin in a way that my parents, had they been there, would have recognized in a heartbeat as a precursor to a full on battle. I was not giving in.
Unfortunately for this friend, she didn't understand children or the fact that I was entirely too dignified to allow myself to be treated like a little kid. (I was only seven, but I considered myself a big girl. I ate off of a big plate at dinner, I had a real glass to drink from instead of a plastic cup, I got to stay up until eight thirty, and I did not have to take naps.)
"I said you're going to take a nap. Now get upstairs." Her tone reminded me of my Mom's tone when she said something and meant it. But this woman was small and skinny and not intimidating, and she wasn't my mother. I was no more inclined to obey her than I was to do what my older sister told me.
I stamped my foot again. "No! I won't, I won't, I WON'T!" I shrieked the last one, my voice almost cracking, and my three sisters, who were all standing on the stairs watching me in admiration, covered their ears.
I honestly believe if that woman had had any experience with children at all, she wouldn't have acted as she did at that moment. But she had no experience, so she stepped forward and said, "Your parents have spoiled you rotten, and you think you're a princess! You're not, and you're going to take a nap!" And she reached out and snatched off my beloved crown and snapped it in half, then tossed it in the trash can.
Relly, who had tried again and again to get me to let her wear the crown, giggled from her place on the stairs. I am convinced to this day that she was pleased to see it destroyed because she couldn't have it, and I didn't talk to her for a week for laughing.
But at that moment I didn't care that she was giggling. I only felt my heart shattering into a million pieces at the loss of something I loved so much, and despite my hating to cry in front of people, I burst into the loud, angry wails of a child. I sat on the carpet, threw out my arms and legs, and beat the floor as I threw the biggest tantrum I've ever had in my life. When the stupid woman tried to pick me up to drag me to my room, I kicked her in the shin and slapped her face and kept screaming and kicking.
Finally she said, "If you don't shut up and go upstairs I'm going to tell your parents how bad you were!"
I looked up at her and gave her my most powerful glare, and I ran upstairs to my room where I continued my tantrum. My sisters came up immediately after me, and Relly said she was sorry my crown was gone, though she didn't look sorry, and the Twinkies agreed that it was "very bad" of her to have done it. At four years old, they couldn't think of anything worse to say than "very bad", and that made me feel better.
I was still crying when I heard the car pull up to the garage, and I was down the stairs and out the door before the woman even knew they were home. And within seconds I was flinging myself into Daddy's arms and crying and telling him what the woman had done to my crown, and how I wouldn't have been bad but I didn't have to take naps anymore and she tried to make me.
My sisters all came out right after me, and they all seconded my story. But Daddy didn't have time to work up his reaction. To my surprise, Mom reacted first, and she was every bit as angry at that woman as she'd ever been at me, plus some extra anger on the side.
I'd never heard my Mom swear so profanely at another adult before, and some of the words she used I'd never even heard. And there was definitely something in there about "I don't care if you thought she was lying about taking naps, all you had to do was call us! You knew where we were!" and then something about being "cruel to my daughter" and "you broke her favorite toy."
That woman didn't come by to see my mother again for a few months after that. Whether it was from embarrassment for her actions or anger at the names my mother had called her, I'm not sure. But I wasn't sad over the loss.
I went without my crown for the rest of that Saturday, but the next day Daddy took me to the store and took me to the little girl toy section and told me to pick out any new crown that I wanted. I looked over each and every one and chose the biggest one.
I did manage to find a picture of the new one.
Wasn't it fabulous?
This crown I loved even more than the first one, not because it was bigger or newer, but because Daddy specifically bought it for me, and because it was like showing up Relly for laughing at the destruction of the first, and because I'd had my so cruelly taken away and this proved that I deserved my crown. Because if I'd been unbearably spoiled about my crown, surely my parents would not have gotten me a new one.
I wore that crown every day, just as I had the other one. And when Mom's friend finally got over her anger or embarrassment and came over to visit one day, I wore my crown with smug satisfaction as I pranced around the living room, flaunting my victory with childish delight. I was being so annoying about it that my Mom finally caught on and sent me outside to "play with the other kids", though she knew I hated playing with other children and I hated being outside. I suppose I deserved it for being so obviously pleased with myself, and I guess I knew it then because I went without even the hint of resistance.
I stopped wearing my crown when I turned nine after school started. I told Daddy, "Now that I'm nine, I'm too big to be carrying toys with me in public." But I still wore it all of the time at home, still refused to share it with my sisters, and when it wasn't on my head, it was sitting in my red velvet Box of Hopes on my vanity, waiting for me to put it on.
That crown disappeared years ago, somewhere between the move from Florida to Texas, but I still find myself thinking about it with a smile on my face. Vain and silly as I was about it, some of my fondest memories of my childhood occurred while I was wearing the old one and the new one. I wish that I still had it though, because if I ever have a niece that reminds me of myself, I'd like to give her that crown. But I suppose that if I ever have a niece I'll just go out and buy her a new one so she can treasure as I did my own. Any child like myself, of course, will understand the magic of a crown, and will wear it with pride.