Saturday, January 22, 2011

Imagining a happy ending

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted here, and it will be a couple of weeks before I post again, so I thought I would squeeze in a tiny story, while I have a moment of peace in which to tell it.

It is early morning in Santa Barbara, and I am the only one awake in my house. Sunlight is coming in through the venetian blinds in golden stripes that fall across the couch, and across the two dachshunds snoring there.

Such moments feel especially dear just now, because things are a bit tough in other respects. In a few days I am taking an unexpected trip back to England, and as you'll know if you've read this blog before I am not a happy flyer.

The happy part of it is that I'll be travelling with my daughter Eleanor. She's got some hard months ahead of her, and needs to summon all her strength and determination to get through them. I'm doing the Mum thing: going as far as I can along the road with her, before I have to let her go on by herself.

So I thought I'd tell a little story about Eleanor that illustrates her ability to deal with challenges, and to find elegant solutions to her problems.

When Eleanor was three, we spent a year living in St. Andrews, Scotland. Our best friends while we were there were a Swiss family, who had a daughter the same age as Eleanor, called Leonore. I know. And they even looked alike.

They played well together, creating elaborate imagined worlds in the corner of the living room. They would assign themselves roles (sometimes several at a time), and then spend the afternoon acting out rambling, complicated stories that seemed to involve a lot of pretend food preparation. From the kitchen I would hear their little, flutey voices rising and falling, with never a cross word.

But one rainy afternoon things turned sour. They had decided to play Sleeping Beauty, but both of them wanted to be the princess, and neither fancied the role of the prince or the evil fairy. Eleanor was usually pretty agreeable, and I expected to hear her concede her chosen role, but she dug her heels in as hard as Leonore. The argument turned fierce. Uncharacteristically, I resisted the urge to get involved.

When things went quiet a few minutes later, I stepped out of the kitchen to see what was going on. There they were, fully back into story-making mode, moving couch cushions around and announcing to each other what features of the landscape they were constructing.

"Did you sort out who's going to be the princess?" I asked.

"We're both going to be princesses," Eleanor said.

"You're going to have two Sleeping Beauties?"

"Nope. We've decided to play Cinderella and Snow White Go Camping."


All of which serves to remind me: the next few months might be tough, but with that kind of out-of-the-box thinking, the kid's going to be OK.


  1. Very sweet! Shows the immense value of a lovely imagination.

  2. Brilliant indeed. May you and Eleanor have a grand adventure together.

  3. Yes, "the kid's going to be OK." Have a safe journey. We look forward to your return.