On Saturday night, me and my husband went to the annual Christmas gala put on by my employers. While I always get excited about the prospect of going out for a meal at a place that does not supply paper menus and crayons, there is always a bit of angst involved in the preparation.

For a start, we have to arrange childcare and hope that the almost-six-year-old drama queen won’t have a hissy fit when he discovers that we’re going out without him. When we fail to find childcare because it’s the Christmas season and apparently, baby-sitters have lives too, we have to hope that the kids won’t tie their elderly grandmother and great-aunt to a pole and dance around them waving sticks and chanting ominously.

Once the kids are sorted out, we move on to the more difficult question, one that has plagued women all over the world since the very beginning of time.

What do I wear?

Where shopping is concerned, my philosophy is this: Why put off until tomorrow what you can do the following day? In that vein, I went shopping for my dress at lunchtime on Friday, one day before the event. And yes, I had to get a new dress. No, I couldn’t wear something already in my wardrobe. My clothing size has changed so many times over the years, in both directions, that I don’t actually have anything that fits. So, off the store I went, fully expecting that as usual, I would have to settle for something I didn’t really like. The perils of being a habitual last-minute shopper. Someday I’ll learn. Maybe. Probably not.

Anyway, the shopping expedition went a lot better than expected. As soon as I walked into the store, I saw a chocolate brown creation that looked very nice. I never thought chocolate brown was really my colour, but some intuition told me to give it a try. By some miracle, they actually had the dress in my size. I picked out a couple of other dresses to try on just in case the chocolate brown one didn’t work out, and I retreated into the change room. I briefly wavered between the chocolate brown dress and a red one, but in the end I went for my initial instinct. Apart from the fact that the brown looked better, I already had shoes that would go with it. I wasn’t wild about the idea of dropping over a hundred bucks on a pair of shoes that would shred my feet by the time dessert was being served.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon, when we were getting ready to go. My makeup was applied and my hair was as done as it was ever going to be. The husband was off putting on his glad rags, and all I had to do was put the dress on. As I slipped it over my head, my eight-year-old son – so sweet and innocent in his autism – wandered in. He tentatively touched the shiny fabric and smiled. And then – to my astonishment – he started helping me accessorize. He grabbed my shoes and helped me put them on. He dug around in my dresser and came up with the necklace I wore with my wedding dress. He handed it to me and said, “Put the necklace on, Mommy.” It wasn’t the necklace I had been planning on wearing, but when your mostly non-verbal autistic child gives you a full, appropriate-to-the-circumstances sentence, you don’t sneeze at it. I put the necklace on, and would you believe it, the kid was right! The necklace looked way better than what I had been planning on.

My little fashion diva stepped back to survey his handiwork. He gazed at me and said a single word: Princess.

We had a great night. The food was good, we had very nice people at our table, we danced and partied and had fun. The dress was a hit, and my some miracle, it was even comfortable. There are many moments of the evening that I smile about as I relive them. Walking into the ballroom hand-in-hand with my husband. The many laughs we shared with the people at our table. The outstanding wine and the food that was so pretty I almost didn’t want to eat it.

But in the end, there is one memory of the evening that I hold close to my heart, that warms me from the inside every time I think about it.

My beautiful son, looking at me with those big blue eyes, calling me a princess.

At moments like that, my cup overfloweth.


The Princess And The Dragon

A few days ago, I was play-wrestling with my kids in the living room. They were beating me hands-downs. I mean, it’s hardly a fair contest, is it? There are two of them and one of me, so I was at a mathematical disadvantage right from the outset.

So anyway, there we were, rolling around on the floor. I was lying face-down trying not to choke on bits of carpet. James was sitting on my legs poking his very pointy elbows into my back. And George was trying to pull my head off my neck. All of a sudden, James lost his balance, rolled off me, and bumped his head lightly on the table.

Instantly, the wrestling came to an end (much to my relief, it must be said) and James started screaming in outrage, underscoring the theory that he was born with the drama queen gene that runs in my husband’s family. When I had managed to calm him down and convince him that not only was he not bleeding to death, he hadn’t even broken the skin, he said to me, “Do you know how much that hurt?”

“How much did that hurt?” I obligingly asked him.

He replied, “That hurt more than a pickle falling on my eyeball.”

James’ use of words is just incredible. His extensive vocabulary coupled with a colourful imagination results in word pictures unlike anything I’d be able to come up with. I mean, a pickle falling on your eyeball? How do you even think of that?

It beats the time we asked him to tell us a story, and he said, “Once upon a time there was a poo. The end.”

His imagination clearly wasn’t firing on all cylinders that day, although for a week after that, I couldn’t get the South Park song “ Mr. Hanky The Christmas Poo” out of my head.

More often than not, though, James does come up with really creative stories. It used to be that he would provide the plot and I would turn it into a coherent story, but now he doesn’t even need me to do that.

Yesterday evening, while I was cooking dinner, James was sitting at my desk busily working away with a piece of paper and a pencil. When he was done drawing, he joined me in the kitchen, showed me his picture, which depicted a girl standing at the window of a castle and a dragon flying by, and solemnly said, “I am going to tell you a story about this picture.”

I sat down with my boy and listened as he spun a wonderful tale…

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a castle. She had long black hair and the prettiest dresses in the whole wide world. One day, Dragon came to visit the princess. She wasn’t scared, because this was a friendly dragon and she knew he wouldn’t hurt her. She took him to the back yard, and gave him tea and cookies.

The dragon told the princess that he wanted her to give him one of her pretty dresses. The princess asked why he wanted a dress, and he told her it was a surprise.

The princess had lots and lots of dresses, so she gave one to the dragon. He finished his tea, played in the sandpit, and then left with the dress in a plastic bag.

The next day, the dragon came back, and he had the handsomest prince in the world with him. The dragon said, “You were lonely so I made you a prince to marry. And my granny turned your pretty dress into a wedding dress.”

The prince and the princess loved each other, and the princess put on the pretty wedding dress, and they got married.

The end.

Personally, I think the princess was kind of slutty to get married to someone she didn’t know, but I still think it’s a lovely story.

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