Every morning when I walk toward the Cave of Doom known as my office, I travel down a path flanked by a little forest of tall trees. For five seconds I feel like a princess in a Disney movie. If no one is near, I sing out loud a la Snow White: “I’m wishing… I’m wishing” and wait to hear the animals sing back.
Sometimes they do. And I think, “I don’t want to work today, I want someone else to take care of me. I want to wear French perfume, Louboutin pumps, and lick crème brulée from a silver spoon held by a hot French prince.” Then I remember I’m not a princess. I am Master and Commander of my universe, the majordomo to Cruella de Vil, and cleaner of my kitchen. Wonderville ain’t the Magic Kingdom and I have yet to see a French Prince in Sequoyah Grille. (However, if you are French, a prince, and reading this, hit my cell; goatees definitely preferred.)
Last month I met a princess at the University of Tennessee’s version of a ball: half-time in the best skybox in Neyland Stadium. Whilst munching on tiny steak sandwiches, I chatted up a really pretty woman I thought was about 60 years old. She wore perfect princess Vol gear. It was sparkly and made her hair look all the more golden. She told me my hair was like Giselle’s in the movie Enchanted. This pleased me because of my aforementioned obsession with French princes. The sparkly blonde was an astounding 80-something years old. And that is how I met Mary Costa, the world-famous soprano and voice of Princess Aurora in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. I had no clue Mary Costa was from Knoxville. I asked her what it was like to be a princess and she took my question very seriously. She explained that she was an ambassador for joy and that doing the work of serving others is the key to true beauty. I thought she might burst into song as the eagle flew over the 50-yard line.
She was charming and everything I imagine a princess to be. Later, I received a letter addressed to me with perfect handwriting. It was the handwriting of a princess. Inside was a color still from Sleeping Beauty autographed by Mary Costa and it said, “For a dream within a dream princess.” It now sits on the verboten dorm refrigerator behind my desk.
Last week I was sulking down the path to the Cave of Doom and I saw in the crook of a tree a small toy from a Happy Meal—as if Boo Radley himself had put it there. It was of another Disney French Princess: Belle. Every day for three weeks, Belle waited for someone to see her in the trees, take her away from the forest, back to the child that found her with a hamburger and apple slices. Every day Belle looked at me with huge, vacant, Disney-green eyes. I wondered if my eyes looked that green and that vacant when people walked by me.
This morning I told Belle all I did was sit in a tree and wait for someone to see me. Belle answered me. She said “Quit whining. You have been seen. Mary Aurora Costa herself said you were a princess. So live the dream, or the dream within a dream, but quit thinking you are sitting in a tree watching life go by. Because you are not. You are both princess and the Master and Commander of your universe. You want a French Prince, go find him. In the meantime pay your bills, make crème brulée, and buy yourself some freakin’ Louboutins.”
I rescued Belle right then. She sits on my desk because even though I work in a place that feels more like a painting by Hieronymus Bosch than Walt Disney, there are days when the universe reminds me that I am a princess and it matters not who sees. Because I am also Master and Commander of my universe. I know this is true because Mary Costa, and Belle, said so.