Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oh, Sara Crewe, how I still love you

I'm continuing my Frances Hodgson Burnett binge with a new Puffin Classics copy of A Little Princess, a book I adored and read repeatedly as a young person.  I still wish for the copy I read so many times which lives, most likely, at my parents' house, but for now am contenting myself with this lovely little paperback.

I cried and remembered myself as a kid when I read these final words in the chapter, "The Diamond Mines Again," the chapter in which Sara loses her beloved father and becomes a pauper, an equal to Becky, the scullery maid with whom she is friends:
"Oh, Becky," she said, "I told you we were just the same -- only two little girls -- just two little girls.  You see how true it is.  There's no difference now.  I'm not a princess any more."   
Becky ran to her and caught her hand, and hugged it to her breast, kneeling beside her and sobbing with love and pain.   
"Yes, miss, you are," she cried, and her words were all broken.  "Whats'ever 'appens to you --whats'ever -- you'd be a princess just the same -- an' nothin' couldn't make you nothin' different."
So much comfort in these words when I was a child, so much solace and inspiration.  No matter what the grown-ups do, how they treat you, how they talk to you or regard you, you can still be a princess inside, the only place it matters.  For me, it still has all the power of a manifesto.

It's wonderful to re-read, to take in the details, to realize how much my image of Sara is influenced by the Shirley Temple movie which I also adored and waited for eagerly when Channel 44 ran old movies at 10:30 on Sundays.  How lovely to realize that Sara actually had dark hair and green eyes, not blond curls, dimples and blue eyes.  How lovely to remember that she is a precocious 7 year-old,  not even a tween.  How lovely to be on this journey with her again, all these years later, and delicious to know the sweetness that's coming her way.  It's as good as it was then, maybe even better!

Oh, Sara Crewe, really, so glad to be with you again, in your attic room, a brave little soldier making the best of a terrible situation.  

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