April 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

There was face painting.

During the long wait in line my daughter, who at 5 is more reflective than most adults, toyed with various ideas before eventually settling on a dragonfly. Her belief in the artist, a person she had never met, was so complete that she may as well have asked for the Mona Lisa. She shuffled along the queue, asking one or two other children what they were going to get.

When her time finally came she leaned back in the chair as instructed and closed her eyes, no doubt picturing the delicate, silvery-winged creature that would soon alight on her cheekbone.

The face painter, with so many faces and so little time, drew not a dragonfly but a dragon. A fierce, toothsome, dark blue and blood red thing. I watched this disastrous canvas unveiling, bit my lip and said nothing, not wanting to be one of those mothers.

Three minutes later the artist seized a mirror and flashed it before her. You’re done.

Like a patient whose cosmetic surgery has failed, my daughter blinked at her reflection, her face a struggle between politeness and protest. She began to speak but was told to vacate her seat.

She took a few steps, faltered, hung her head and began to cry, pushing her wee back with one hand so as not to add a second humiliation to the first. She wept for the dragonfly replaced by this monster on her face. I held her hand and my heart caved in with vicarious grief. She begged me to wash the creature off.

Then as we walked away, in her characteristic search for truth and goodness, she began to try to understand. My little girl, always doing the work of others in her head.

‘Maybe she didn’t hear very well? I said dragonFLY but maybe she just thought I said dragon? Maybe she didn’t know how to draw a dragonfly? Maybe she had just never seen one before?’ Her little shoulders shrugged, soft palms turned up, ready to give the devil himself room to manoeuvre.

‘Perhaps she was in a hurry and got confused?’ I offered. Trying to soften the blow, not willing to believe that a grownup with a paintbox full of dreams could care so little.

‘But all the children were just waiting patiently, that was no problem,’ she said, acting like there was all the time in the world.

Eventually she decided to keep the dragon. Her brother thought it was cool. But I’m planning to paint a dragonfly on her beautiful, faithful face as soon as I can.



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