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Paper Dolls: Childhood in Progress MAG
Growingup with Morgan was like having a real-life imaginary friend. She was mychildhood. Every fleeting memory of riding wooden ponies with dirty mop hair, ortalking until sleep glued our eyelids shut, involved her. We knew we'd stay youngtogether forever.
Morgan and I were like two accordion paper dolls; westarted on blank white paper as anonymous figures. Morgan was cut out three yearsbefore I, but once I was born, we were joined at the hip, holding hands, andwalking a three-legged race. Our dolls tried on countless identities. We wereteachers and students or doctors and patients. But more often, we were princesseswith Sunday slips and bed sheets as royal attire.
One Saturday afternoonwhen I was seven, I was getting dressed up for the royal party.
"Only15 minutes until the ball! Let me see you," Morgan said haughtily in ahigh-pitched (and very fake) British accent. "Um, what was your nameagain?" she whispered, like she had forgotten her lines in a play.
Istole a sideways glance. "Heidi," I hinted.
"Ahem, MissAdelheide, turn around. Your dress must be perfect for the ball! And fix yourcrown before the Queen sees you." I stood in front of the mirror admiring mypink ballet shoes and frizzy hair, burned by Morgan's unskilled hand at thecurling iron.
"How's my poise, Madame?" Iquestioned.
"Horrible. What will the Queen say! You'll never beready. Now stay quiet. Take smaller steps, and don't slouch!" she correctedwith British flair.
This went until I got tired of being yelled at byMadame Morgan. A dramatic, imaginary argument ensued and one of the charactersinevitably stormed off the stage. We finally ended up rolling on the ground,tickled by our fine acting.
She always wrote the stories. Some days weattended a trampoline class at the girls' school or rode horses at the ranch. Wewere Olympic gymnasts or explorers. Morgan always chose her character first:headmistress, queen, it didn't matter as long as she could boss me around. Thiswas the innocence of childhood, the simple idea that we could be anything as longas we were together.
But childhood was boxed up and the day came when shesaid good-bye. With her best princess wave, she was carried in her chariot toreign over a new era of life. Elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, wipe a tear, blow akiss. It was that simple ... for her.
Our parents immersed her inattention; the school counselors doted over her resume. The university sent herhonors college applications and her roommates became her new sisters.
Whowas I? My identity was linked to hers. She no longer needed me, or our sillychildhood games; she was all grown up. I was alone, a freshman. I'd never been toa prom, never had a boyfriend or a first kiss, never come in after curfew andnever broken a rule. I was still ignorant about maturity, and she was practicallya woman.
Home was deathly quiet after she left. For months I was healingfrom the blow of losing my sister and my childhood. We had finally grown apart.She had looked at the map and was off and running, beating a new path andrelishing grown-up freedom. I was doubled over before thousands of trailheads,knees pressed to my heaving chest, tears blurring the roads, without a map insight.
"Honey, just let it go," Mom said, her brow furrowed.It was a cloudy night, and I had been floating for hours in our icy pool like adead fish. Christopher Peacock's melancholy piano music strained from mystereo.
"She doesn't even know I exist!" Iwailed.
"Lindsay, honey, you can't stay like this. You have to lether go. She's changed, and you've changed, but it's a happy change."
"No, Mom, you don't understand."
"Yes, yes, I do. Iknow it's hard, but Morgan has to test her wings, and that's okay. It's hard forme, too. Remember, I'm the mother letting my baby birdfly!"
"Yeah, but you expected this to happen since she was born.I was just hit with the rock of reality," I mumbled. I kept thinking thatshe grew up too fast. I knew she needed childhood; it was her source of identitywhere she could find imagination. Childhood lasts forever, right?
* * *
Morgan was studying the map quizzically, but I knew shecould never figure it out since she didn't have the slightest clue how to readItalian. I kicked the rocky earth beneath my tennis shoe, wondering what we weregoing to do for two hours in the Florence gardens. The Giardino di Boboli was notmy idea of a terrific time in Italy; I thought the hours were much better spentshopping. I still hadn't picked out my perfect outfit for the first day of junioryear and there were only two months of summer left.
She finallydisregarded the map. "So, Princess, give me the grand tour. You're not goingto keep me, the daughter of England's noble family, waiting, are you?" Shequestioned in her signature British accent. "Because we've only one halfhour until tea."
"What? Oh ... tea, yes, well, we must getgoing!" I replied with broken surprise. "First, we'll view thepond," I stated.
"The pond? That dirty excuse of a lake? Doesn'tyour elder brother tend that area?" She spoke with disdain. Hmm, I thought,telling me what to do again ... well, she's not the only one with a mind of herown.
I had been bossed around enough when it came to pretending, so Idecided to twist the storyline a little. "Of course, Princess. What ... areyou afraid that the fish will bite, or are you too ladylike to pull up your skirtand dip your toes in the water?" I countered.
"Whatever madeyou think that," Morgan sniffed as she put her nose into the air. She was alittle taken aback, realizing that I'd finally figured out her childhood game,and that she was no longer in charge. Our game had also grown up. We were equalswith wit and a spirit of competition. We continued our conversation, linking armsas we moved through the throng of tourists.
"So, pray tell, whatare your plans for the future?" Morgan asked.
"Well, like myancestors, I'm being prepared to meet my throne. It's dreadfully boring learningall the ladylike mannerisms every day. You know, making calls to Italy'salliances."
"Like I'm doing, talking to you," Morgancommented with a sigh.
"Well, don't sound so pleased to behere," I replied sarcastically.
"It's just that you bore me withyour future plans. They are ... traditional." She yawned a second time."Haven't you heard, Princess? Come on, it's the 1700s! America, the land ofopportunity, is my future."
"Morgan, America hated the Britishin the 1700s," I said, interrupting the role play.
"Okay, well,1900s then," she corrected.
"Anyway, since I'm the fourthdaughter, I'm not in line for the throne, so I can make my life whatever Iwant," she continued.
There we were, our childhood as tangible aswhen we were trying on our princess roles for the first time all those years ago.But childhood had changed; now it was advanced pretending.
We didn'toutgrow childhood; childhood just grew up.