When I Was Just A Little Girl

sassypants chocherry (2)

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.

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25 thoughts on “When I Was Just A Little Girl

  1. I’m not a tutu kind of girl either. More of a tree climbing one and spent many hours building rafts for the creek out back of my yard and hanging out in trees.

    what a fun post, and a nostalgic one too Selma. I do believe our personalities and way of being is partially inherent and then sculpted by our environment and what we have the privilege to experience.
    My sister has a son who is 7 years old. he was born 3 months premature! But, he was stubborn and strong willed and determined. Not only did he obviously survive, he thrived with no cognitive or physical limitations. To this day, Thomas is a stubborn, strong willed and determined kid who is never ever left behind when it comes to playing with his big brother and big cousins. He is the example I thought of reading your post.

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  2. Well, never was is more obvious to me that people are born with personalities unique to themselves than when the twins were born. I remember a set of identical twins from school, and their mother said they were as different as night and day from the day they were born too. Pink tutus were meant for happy, bouncy girls. Your sister had the perfect one for her, and I’m sure she DID resent people thinking that made her sad. Stupid, stupid people saying the stupidest things to children, never realizing how their thoughtless words and behavior affect them. How hard is it to think of something to put a smile on a sullen child’s face? Although, if life truly is a mirror, then those people showed up to teach her about herself – and sometimes we don’t like the lesson.

    Okay, I also thought of something else when I read this. Do you watch Dr. Who? There is this episode where a girl is waiting til she’s “of age” to become one of the fairies that she has played with. The fairies are not nice looking – they’re actually quite frightening. Anyway, after all the hoopla and stuff, Dr. Who realizes that there is no stopping the inevitable – she MUST go with the fairies, and she WANTS to go – it is not a tragedy to her. Dr. Who is saddened for the mother who loves her child, but in the end, it was best to let her go.

    Sometimes we fight against what we know is inevitable. When I had my daughters, I had visions of pink tutus and dolls and all the stuff that comes with girls, right? Wrong. I have ONE like that, and she was a Godsend for me since my older daughters were more like dana – climbing trees, horse lovers, ballcap wearers…. so hard on a mom that was very different! My point is I learned very early on not to waste my money and my heart on what was never going to be – my girls belonged to that sect of girlhood called, “Tomboy” that I never did fit in to, but hung out with. It was heartbreaking to “let go” of my dreams of little girlie girls, but in the end, it was best for all. 🙂

    If your life would have been different because you wore a pink tutu, it wouldn’t have been for the better. You mother did good letting you be who you wanted to be. Kudos to her for that! We like you JUST the way you are.

    And that was a VERY long comment!!! *blush*

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  3. Oh Sel, what a lovely post. I teared up reading your words. I know what you mean about a glimpse of something bringing the past back and how…I was also a rather “feisty” little girl. I marched to my own drum and although I enjoyed all the frills and girly things, I also was quite a non-conformist in some ways. I still am and I like that, just fine. I stuck to my guns even when it wasn’t the popular thing to do, as a child. That strength in me, hasn’t changed. It gets harder though, when the decisions of adulthood loom. Sometimes, it would be so easy to ‘cave in’ and do what everyone else thinks is the “right thing”. I hear ya Sel and I understand.

    Thanks for a wonderful stop here, on a tough day for me. Hugs, G

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  4. I can’t remember myself but I can see it in my children. My daughter was socialable from the moment she was born. People used to complain when she moved around the village with my husband when she was only a few weeks old. But my daughter never did. She could be held by anyone and be content. Now she is the outgoing DJ at her school.

    My son on the other hand wanted to be home and with me. Even now he has only a handful of friends and has no interest in leaving home once school hours are over.

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  5. It is interesting what triggers memories like this. I am sure that in many ways how we are as a child influences how we are as an adult. Blessed our those who do not follow the pack, who dare to be!

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  6. oh childhood, where did you go? it’s funny how many things can trigger a memory, I was never one to wear tutus either, I wore pants most of my childhood, I still wear pants now and never did quite able to bring myself to wear dresses…

    I like that you dress up as the Knight and not some helpless girl needing to be save, I think it shows your creative side and that you are a different kind of thinker, it certainly seems so considering the wonderful way you express yourself and also your fiction writing is so full of imagination and life

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  7. DANA:
    That is so interesting about your nephew. What a tenacious little fighter. I am intrigued by the whole nature vs nurture thing, in particular with regards to how character is formed.

    Tree houses and building rafts were definitely my kind of thing – although my rafts always sank. Those were the days *sigh*

    TEX:
    I have seen that episode of Dr. Who. It’s funny, isn’t it? There is often a bit of a message where the Doctor is concerned. All those aliens seem to put us in touch with our humanity a bit.

    I liked your point about your girls. We do have to let our children be who they are, don’t we? Here’s the twist. My sister now has a little girl who is the ultimate girly girl. Everything is pink and frilly. She wears fairy wings with glitter wherever she goes. Shelley and I often laugh about it!

    GERALDINE:
    Sorry to hear you’re not having a good day. And you’re right. It’s one thing to stick to our guns as children when our realm of experience is limited, but as adults it can be much more difficult. Who knew that staying true to who we are could be so tough? Take care, hon.

    LAURI:
    That is fascinating about your children. It is amazing to me how we can all be so different right from the word go!!

    TOBEME:
    That memory just came from nowhere. I wasn’t even thinking about my sister and WHAM – there it was. I couldn’t agree more. Blessed are the individuals!

    LISSA:
    What an absolutely lovely comment. It is so nice of you to say that because I always feared as a child I was a little odd. I wish I had been able to say at the time :’Mum, I’m not weird, I’m just a different kind of thinker.’ Brilliant!

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  8. You wrote how I feel. Your pen smoothly scooped up my heartstrings and pulled them together in a tender time capsule. Terrific post! Perfect ending. Those times that whip you back in time, and you recall being different and sometimes it was ok to be apart from the crowd and other times, sigh, it was so lonely! I relished my independence but I also still remember that aching loneliness and later the joy of discovering other friends who didn’t “run with the pack.”

    As for the red tutu, that reminds me vividly of a blue-violet tutu for my daughter, not for me, that has many a blog story to go with it, far different than yours! Thanks for the inspiration.

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  9. Hi GEL,
    It is so nice of you to say that. It is great when an experience I have can be shared by someone else. I would LOVE to hear about the blue-violet tutu. Now that’s my kind of tutu!

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  10. I always wanted to believe that nuture would beat nature, but after many years of study and life experience I now am a firm believer that nature is the winner. We are what we are from a very young age. To be a knight or Merlin is fantastic – imaginative and strong. I wanted to be Tarzan and spent many hours in the backyard pretending to be swinging through the trees with my animal friends – I was attracted to the strength. I did love fairies, however, because of the many fairy books I fell in love with (faraway tree etc.,). Viva la difference.

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  11. Those early years are very much formative. Perhaps the most stark example I have of this is when I was about ten and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without thinking, I said: a soldier, a writer and a dad. Life seemed to go off in many directions for me, but those words were more prophetic than I could have ever imagined. As a kid I guess I knew.

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  12. There was once a little girl who wanted a butterfly. There were several preserved tropical butterflies for sale, in cases, in a nature bookshop we went into.

    I said no; it’s too expensive and it wouldn’t last anyway. She cried.

    So, I made her a butterfly out of crepe paper and wire, and it was her treasured possession for many years.

    (Hard to believe she’s now a tough nursing sister, known as ‘The Dragon Lady’ behind her back!)

    And, back when I was small, I told my teacher I wanted to travel, be a writer and join the Air Force. You must make your mind up, he said. You can’t do all three.

    Pity he’s not still around; I’d love to show him my valedictory letter and some of my clips and say ‘Nyaaah!’

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  13. Hi GABRIELLE,
    Tarzan was a big favourite of mine. I used to get my friends to play Game Keepers with me as a result of my love of Tarzan and the old show ‘Daktari.’ I also liked fairies. A lot. Yet oddly I didn’t want to dress up as one. Maybe I didn’t feel feminine enough. It’s an interesting thought to consider!

    HI ANTHONY,
    Talk about knowing yourself. WOW. That is impressive considering you were only ten. It does seem like a prophetic moment!

    Hi TRAVELRAT,
    I love the story about the butterfly and how the little girl treasured the one made for her.

    I’m glad you could do the three things you wanted to. The things we are capable of if we believe in ourselves, eh?

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  14. Well, I took ballet for 10 years, and am still more than a little clumsy if I’m not paying attention.

    It is so amazing how quickly the past can come flooding back, and you look down at your shoes, and you’re wearing patent leather mary janes and ankle socks. I don’t think that little girl is ever far from the surface. …as intent as some of us can be about shooing her away.

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  15. I was never a tutu girl either. I was a little odd I think. I still am. But I have grown used to it and rather like it and I tend to be drawn to other quirky people which makes life more interesting.

    The grey tutu made me think of my wedding because I chose to get married in black which was not universally approved of but I like black!

    My four children are all different. They always have been. How much of that relates to genes and how much to their family position, way I treat them, life experiences it is hard to assess.

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  16. I really really want a red tutu… I didn’t realize how much until right this moment. It’s work appropriate right?

    I think our temperament is formed early. I was the curious “why” child (still am). The one who isn’t tied to tradition or doing things “because it’s the way we do them.”

    The Boy… god, that kid… he just is. And I love that about him. (Great post.)

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  17. I don’t have much to say because you’ve said enough. I just want to let you know that I really enjoyed reading your post and it has given me a lot of food for thought.
    All the best to you!

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  18. Memories can be interesting. I WAS a tutu girl and dreamed of being a ballet dancer until I was about 18 years old. The memories of all great ones. But today I am definitely NOT a tutu girl– and grateful for the direction my life took.

    This was a wonderful post and very thought provoking. You have a great way with words. Thank you.
    xo

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  19. Thanks for the smile and a memory. Although I was aware of the fact that my parents were unable to afford some of the things I longed for when a child, such as musical instruments, music and dancing class lessons, it didn’t keep me from saving up enough money to buy a pair of regulation ballet slippers when I was about sixteen. Nobody ever witnessed my unforgettable toe-dancing, solo performances in the privacy of the family livingroom. Those slippers followed me into marrage but remained my secret.

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  20. I truly believe the essence of who were are today was formed in our early childhood. So many times, life events create a detour for us, sometimes for many years, but I think as we grow older and wiser we gravitate back to who we were. For me, I was an extremely independent child full of self-assurance and self-reliance. Then my life unfolded and events created a detour down the road low self-esteem, dependance, depression. But the past year or so has seen a change in my personality, back to where it began. I feel stronger and more at ease with myself. Great post Selma. I have been AWOL again, I finally got a job after 16 months of being laid off. It is tough getting back on a schedule that includes an eight hour workday.

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  21. STEPH:
    I couldn’t agree more. She’s always there reminding us of the great possibilities in life. And how important it is to remember who we are!

    RELUCS:
    I went to a wedding ages ago where the bride wore black. I thought it was really glamorous. Many people were outraged but the bride stuck to her guns. I thought she looked so chic. Well worth a bit of sputtering and stuttering from Aunt Martha.

    It’s hard to know what makes us all different. I think it’s just one big glorious combo of nature and nurture!

    NAT:
    I think a red tutu is definitely appropriate anywhere. I would love one myself.

    There is something celebratory about the way kids just are. It’s as if they throw their arms out to the day and announce :’I’m here!’

    SHIONA:
    Thanks so much!!

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  22. JOANNA:
    Nothing wrong at all with being a tutu girl. There are merits in both sides of the coin, for sure. My cousin was mad for ballet until she was 16 and then just stopped cold. I often wonder if she regrets it because she was a fabulous dancer.

    MARY:
    What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing your ballet slippers secret. I am imagining you right now pirouetting around your living room. Glorious!

    NANNA:
    Amen. We need a mix. No question. What a boring old world it would be otherwise!

    PAUL:
    That means a lot coming from you. You are a bit of a craftsman yourself!

    CRICKET:
    How nice to hear from you. Congratulations on the job. It is hard adapting back into that routine. Sounds like you have come full circle. I am really glad for you!

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