A Halloween Fairy Tale

This is a piece about my then five-year-old daughter who continues to enjoy testing boundaries. It was published by The Columbus Dispatch in October 2007.

Here is the piece as it appeared in the Dispatch:

At Halloween, a fairy tale turns lifelike

She thrust the Little Golden Book into my lap.

On the cover, balancing awkwardly across a window ledge, sits a young lady — skin as fair as Crayola peach, eyes as blue as mine are not. One of her perfectly slender arms rests on the window column for support, the other on a long braid of unyielding golden hair. With fervor that only a 5year-old can summon, my daughter pursued her lips in defense of her damsel in distress.

“See Mommy, I told you: Rapunzel does not have black hair!”

Of all the rituals we practice in our household, an Asian and Ohioan hodgepodge, Halloween is among my favorites.

While ghosts and goblins resurface to create havoc for their earthy counterparts, a similar resurrection takes place on the home front: A hobby, long assumed dead by way of career, comes alive.

In the weeks before Halloween I used to spend undisturbed time indulging in the Singers and Simplicity of patterns of sewing. The only requirement: At the end of the husband- and daughter-free period, I had to produce a costume — daughter-selected and mother-sewn.

The process delivered itself smoothly for the first couple of years: Riana would pick the costume and I’d sew it. Then, when she was 5, a difference of opinion suggested itself: She picked catalog No. 8328 and I knew there’d be trouble. It’s one thing to be the lion in Wizard of Oz, Minnie Mouse or baby Bop. Rapunzel, though, is different. The fairytale character has human attributes. She has race-defining traits including pale yellow hair that only Barbie can match.

For an impressionable kindergartner, the Rapunzels and Barbie dolls of the world were not among my top choices as role models. I wanted her to grow up comfortable with herself — to revel in her uniqueness, not recede in its shadows. I wanted her to applaud her roots. and I wanted her to love her black hair.

She just wanted to be Rapunzel.

“Maybe we can make Rapunzel special by letting her have black hair?” I asked as a last attempt. Her answer was no and her reason was simple: A black-haired Rapunzel just wouldn’t be Rapunzel.

I wanted her to grow up comfortable with herself — to revel in her uniqueness, not recede in its shadows.

I looked at the picture on the pattern package. A blond girl modeled on pink taffeta gown with a gold panel of quilted lame down the front. Gold sequins laced the sleeves, and a hat, in full Renaissance regalia, completed the picture, with a trailing whisper of a veil attached on top.

No wonder my daughter liked the costume. It had a dreamlike feel to it. How many more opportunities would I get to play fairy godmother to her?

And so we began sinning the tale of our very own Rapunzel. Yellow yarn was turned into the character’s larger-than-life, two-ply glory. The costume, like my daughter’s dream, took shape — stitch by stitch. By the weekend before Halloween, we were finished.

On Beggars Night, my daughter slipped on her dream. As I watched her carry her pumpkin pail in one hand and her cascading braid in the other, I realized she had already rewritten the fairy tale.

There among the Rugrats, the Teletubbies and the Snow Whites emerged a new American icon: My own little princess.

Occasionally she pushed her hat back on her head, oblivious to the discord between her black bangs and the yellow braid. That night, she lived a fantasy that many of us barely have time to dream about.

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