I'm sure that parents wonder when they will have to break the news to their children. When will cruel obligation force them to tell their sons and daughters that their dearest beliefs are false? The Easter Bunny does not assemble baskets of frothy pastels and sugar every Spring. The Tooth Fairy does not slip a diaphanous arm beneath a child's pillow to exchange a silver coin for a bloody tooth. Santa Claus does not visit deserving homes, leaving behind a sprinkling of gifts and snowflakes.
But do parents realize that it is also their happy responsibility to let their children know that some of their fond imaginings are true?
For example: many times I've seen tiny girls dressed in pink gossamer dresses, sequins glinting under the artificial lights of supermarkets and department stores or under the more benign light of an afternoon in the park. Following their parents, they are the princesses next in line, petticoats and skirts dragging beyond their ankles. They wear plastic gold circlets on their heads and filmy veils tangle in their hair. They exist in worlds of royalty and fancy: hoping to return to their pale castles before dinnertime and homework. Every night they try to sleep on mattresses disrupted by a single pea.
But what if a particularly enterprising parent brought a history book to their whimsical girls and opened it to these sad, regal children?
Wouldn't it be a masterstroke to show their daughters that the princesses hitherto only seen in coloring books, or read about in fairy tales – or whose slippers they stepped into on Halloween – were real?
It might not be what they imagined: these princesses wore stiff, painfully embroidered gowns: they couldn't run or play. Their crowns were twisted from carats of gold - their heads ached terribly. Their slippers were dirty from the filth of their cold, white-washed castles. But they lived: after the crayons were put away, when the storytellers were silent, when the holidays were over.
And couldn't one look into the eyes of these princesses and read a wish: that they could escape the onset of an early adulthood for just one hour of youthful freedom – that they could change places with that child who holds their story in her hands?