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We lived in a large fancy home in England. I had a nanny that did almost everything for me even though I was completely capable of doing most things on my own.
That night, I sat staring at the ornate ceiling. I don’t know what I expected to see, beyond the crown moulding and the ceiling fan looking back at me. I gazed and as I began to lose reality, I put myself into a world unknown to anyone but me. I pictured the stars. I arranged them in any formation I wanted to, because, then again, who was there to question me. I wrote my name and painted pictures with the stars on my ceiling. Sometimes, I imagined characters that I could talk to. Mother and father were always too busy and never had time to talk.
One time, I attempted to explain to mother that it was not necessary for me to have a nanny. She looked away from her news-paper and told me crisply that it was silly to do my own work if there were people willing to do it for me.
And so, as my thoughts wandered back to my visions on the ceiling, I painted my purple hippo that I called Miss Melinda, for I hadn’t seen her in what seemed like ages. She had always been my favorite character. A friendly, twinkling, purple hippopotamus stared back at me and I whispered,
“How do you do, Miss Melinda?”
She wore a dusty, blue petticoat with cream, scalloped trim. On top of her head was a large-brimmed, pale yellow sunhat with a big, pink bow that surrounded the crown. She had little, purple ballet flats that she wore with cream socks, so they wouldn’t clash with her violet skin.
“Mighty fine, little Miss. I haven’t seen you in a spell! I was just walking out for some fresh evening air and wondered if I might stop by,” she replied. I stared up at the hippopotamus smiling at me, and I asked if she might enjoy a cup of hot chocolate--with a dash of cinnamon, a swirl of whipped cream, and some chocolate shavings that topped it all off.
“Why that’s my favorite kind!” she said. As I made our favorite treat to share, she set the table on a rather large lily pad that floated in our pond, in the gardens.
“It’s just as good as I remember. Is that a dash of cinnamon I taste?” she asked as she sipped hers down. I poured her another cup.
“Indeed it is, and it’s the special kind from Mexico--only suitable kind at all, if I might add.” With that, she gave me a quick little nod as if to say she sincerely agreed.
Lightning bugs spiraled around us creating a light glow that added to the pleasant ambience of the evening. Lily pads floated in the cool clear pond while diminutive frogs hopped along their paths.
“What a night for such an occasion, my dear! I say the last time I was invited to such an affair was when Charles the Alligator who lives across the street from me, you know the one, took me out for an evening in the marshlands,” she exclaimed as her lilac cheeks turned a bashful shade of rose.
“I suppose I do recall you telling me the story, but won’t you tell it again Miss Melinda? It’s so wonderful to have somebody to talk to for once!”
“ I suppose I could, as long as you’re listening,” she laughed. It was New Year’s Eve, and Charles had asked me to attend a party in the marshlands with him. We were walking to the party and the lights were just ahead when he tripped on a root that had grown out of the ground! I couldn’t help but giggle as I helped him up and he gave me a glare that I’ll never forget. I told him that I just couldn’t help it and he seemed to soften up. We continued into the exceedingly, exceptionally, extraordinary celebration and he asked me if I would accompany him in a waltz! Now Alligators make good dance partners, but Hippos are even better. We ended up winning an honor for the most outstanding partner dance. The whole crowed cheered us on as we danced the night away into the New Year!” She spoke with a bit of gratification in her voice. “And the rest is a bit of a blur, I’m sorry to say.”
“I love to hear that story. The way you say it just makes it sound so exciting!”
We talked through the night about silly things like why the bluebells drooped in sadness. I knew it was because of their fragile stems, but there was no reason to dispute one of the outrageous stories Miss Melinda told. She said it was because the sunflowers were hoarding all of the sunshine, and it made the bluebells melancholy. I simply laughed and went along with it as though it were true.
She mentioned the way the blue birds had been singing lately and I had to confess that I hadn’t noticed.
“Oh yes,” she said, “They’ve been quite outstanding singing the Maple Leaf Rag! That old tune just makes me want to get up and do a little jig.”
The stars seemed to dance around as Miss Melinda did, and as quickly as they had appeared, I fell asleep.