(For Rory, with thanks for everything you taught me in our time together. I love you.)
Once upon a time (all fairytales should start this way), there was a little girl and, of everything in the world that she could possibly hope for, there was only one thing she truly wanted and that was a prince who would love for herself. Unfortunately, she didn't think she was very special and didn't have any interesting abilities to offer a wonderful prince like the one she dreamed of. She was just a quiet, sad and rather plain little girl who was tired of being alone.
One day, she was tending to her daisies, singing and dreaming of a prince of her very own, when the tines of her garden rake got tangled in a root under the soft earth of the garden. She pulled and tugged at it until it began to loosen and come up. To her amazement, instead of a root, a very tiny, very lovely old lady emerged from the soil at the end of her rake.
"My goodness, it's been a long time since anyone summoned me!" exclaimed the old lady, brushing dirt from her clothing.
The little girl stared, jaw agape, before gathering herself enough to stammer, "I ... I didn't summon you ... did I?"
The old lady chuckled gently. "Do you see anyone else around, dear?" She gave her skirt a good hard shake, dislodging the last of the earth from it. "Now, what shall we do about your dilemma?"
The little girl blinked incredulously. "Wh ... what dilemma is that, Ma'am?"
"Oh come now, little one!" The old lady snorted in amusement. "You've been wishing for the same thing for as long as I can remember. Why hasn't it happened for you yet, do you suppose?"
Dropping her gaze to the ground, the little girl blushed and shrugged, ashamed of her insecurities. Her eyes flew up to the softly lined face of the lady when she spoke. "Sweetie, you have to start believing in yourself. It can't possibly happen until you do. Once you believe that you deserve the same gifts that others do, your special prince will find you. Right now, he can't see you because you're hiding the best parts of yourself under that blanket of insecurity." The old lady took the girl by the hand and led her to the little pool behind the house. "Look at your reflection," she commanded, "and tell me what you see."
The little girl looked miserably at herself, reflected in the water, knowing that nothing would have changed from the last time she saw her own face and form, knowing that it would still be plain and displeasing.
"Do you see?" demanded the old lady. "Do you see your pretty eyes? Your fair, delicate skin? Your beguiling smile?" The old lady shook her head before the girl could respond. "I know you don't, little one. Nor are you aware of your sweet submissive nature, your giving heart, your pretty voice and your desire to please. But you have to understand that others notice these things. Others do not see what you see, little one."
The lovely old lady guided the bemused little girl back to her daisies, turned to her, reached up and gently curved a frail old hand against her jaw. "My sweet child," the old lady crooned softly, "drop the veil from your eyes and see yourself as you are to others. Once you have succeeded in doing that, the one thing that you most desire will be yours. You are worthy, my dear. Just believe." With that, the old lady stepped back amongst the flowers and sank out of sight.
The little girl stood, staring at the spot where the old lady had disappeared, while an eternity passed. Every word that the old lady had spoken spun through her mind, again and again. She turned and stumbled back to the pool, staring blindly at the reflection in the water. Little by little, the girl began to see the things the old lady had shown her. Bit by bit, the sad little girl began to smile and then to glow with the inner light of understanding. By and by, her head held high, the not-so-plain little girl stepped out into the real world, knowing that her dream would someday come true.
~ C. Masson (all rights reserved) Nov. 2008