I saw a little girl in a red tutu at the shops today. She would have been about three or four years old. She had a teddy in a little toy stroller who was also wearing a red tutu.
It’s funny how you can see things that remind you of something else. Almost exactly.
My sister, Shelley, about the same age had a tutu in non-traditional colours. It was grey.
Her grey tutu, was grey by accident. It had been a white tutu a neighbour had washed with a black leotard that wasn’t colourfast. Her little ballerina decided she would not settle for a grey tutu so it was passed on to my sister.
Shelley wasn’t a ballerina but she liked the outfits the ballerinas wore. She wore that grey tutu everywhere. It was a soft kind of grey like the fur of a cat, but everywhere she went people would say :’ Oh look at you and your grey tutu, you poor, sad, little ballerina.’
I remember Shelley glowering at all these people who thought it was unfortunate to have a grey tutu. I used to hide the magic wand I had been given for Christmas, fearing that if she got hold of it she would use that glower to curse someone.
When I saw the little girl today in the red tutu I got a catch in my throat for more reasons than one. That little girl reminded me so much of my sister who was a non-conformist of the glowering sort as a child and remained that way as an adult.
I had friends and cousins who dressed as ballerinas and fairies in the more traditional pinks, whites and sometimes (daringly) lilacs, who even today follow a more conservative way of dressing. And living. It got me thinking that it might be possible that our character is formed from a very young age. Our steadfastness. Our strength. Whether or not we are forthright. It is easier to follow the pack as a child. To not follow puts you in danger of being whispered about behind cupped hands or pointed out in a crowd. I wonder why a child would willingly encourage those whispers.
Seeing the little girl in the red tutu also made me think of when I was a little girl. My non-traditional ways. I didn’t like ballerinas with all their primping and posing. I certainly didn’t like fairies, at least not the good ones.
I used to dress up as Merlin or as a Knight of the Round Table, devising strategies to save the world on old sheets of butcher’s paper taped to my bedroom floor.
I was the way I am now from a very young age. I wonder what made me that way and not the ballerina type of girl with her beautiful posture and perfect mannerisms. Why was I a clumsy, plodding wizard or a Knight destined to never find the Holy Grail? Would my life have been different if I had worn pink tulle and had rosebuds in my hair?
The things you see at the shops sometimes bring the past back so rapidly it is as if current existence is completely imagined. And the little girl I used to be remains.
* Image sassypantstutus.