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"The Tutu"

Bernestine Singley © 2000

She lived in my mother’s wallet.

Sometimes I would sneak her out and gaze intently at her, at everything she wore, the way she stood, her beaming face. Arms outstretched, fingers pointed as though she had just—oops!—dropped a china cup or a crystal goblet from each hand or maybe she was just directing traffic.

Perched on her tiptoes, one leg crossed in front of the other, a tiny tiara atop her head, she lay there in the palm of my hand or on the foot of my bed or sometimes lodged between patches of peeling paint on the windowsill, propped against the window, dressed as always in the one thing I wanted more than anything I had ever wanted, the thing that, once in my possession, would free me from ever wanting or needing anything at all ever again in life even though I was only seven and my years still stretched out ahead: a tutu.

A shimmery bodice hugged her from neck to waist whereupon short, stiff layers of organza suddenly sprouted, parallel to the floor, encircling her in a poof of ballerina beauty that barely covered her bottom. Sheer tights covered her legs, the same length and shape as mine, before disappearing into satiny shoes with satiny laces attached only at the back and that wrapped themselves around her ankles.

I know for I had studied those laces, had studied her, committing every detail to memory, the better to describe to God every night on my knees in prayer exactly what he would need to know to find this outfit in that girl's closet and send it on the wings of a dove back to prayerful me.

The photo was black and white. Even so, I imagined the tutu and all of its accessories were pale, pink, pretty. Except the pearls in the tiara had to be white, something I knew because the pearl was after all my birthstone, just one more piece of evidence, as though more was needed, that I was born to wear the object of my obsession: her tutu.

One day I did not put her back in the plastic sleeve where she lived in third position after my sister in first and me in second. Instead, I slipped her out of the house in my book satchel and took her to school with me. I showed her to my friends, telling them she was my sister, that one day in a burst of generosity I had let her wear my tutu.

Tears sprang to my eyes at the vision of loveliness, or maybe it was the lie, I lay flat before them. But they glanced at my treasure, then skipped right over my point as they marched straight to the heart of the matter.

"Woooooo! That girl white. She ain’t yo’ sista!" I snatched her up, returned her to safety, flattened between the pages of "Fun with Dick and Jane," away from eyes that could not see, ears that would not hear.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and lacerate you. Matthew 7:6.