The forest was my schoolhouse. I spent the morning memorizing parts of the Constitution of the United States, and then I studied the history of women’s clothing, and designed a few empire dresses that would have been fashionable early in the 19th century. I had a book of floor plans, and I dreamed of living in a house with a wide front porch and a dozen rooms, each a different world decorated with a different theme. I drew pictures of my future daughters as young women, dressing them with my pencils in silks and velvets of the medieval days. I knew that someday I would have a house full of beautiful daughters. I was hoping for seven, each one a princess with eyes the color of the ocean. I knew that their daddy would have blue eyes too. I imagined that we would meet soon, fall in love, and share a world together even more wonderful than the one I knew then.
When I finished my work, I followed the dry creek bed to my watchtower and perched in the branches of the tall prickly pine. Once I was sure I was alone, I sang like no one was listening. All the neighborhood children and my older sisters were at school, and Heather was back at the house with my parents. This was my world. Besides the creatures of the forest, there was no one who shared this imaginary place with me— no one I cared to invite in yet. My dream was too precious to share with just anyone. My heart was fragile, but my world was wild and free.
Somehow I knew I was a princess waiting to be discovered. Even my name means “princess.” I had read all the stories: Rapunzel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. In nearly every princess story, the lovely princess was rejected, hidden away, or lost deep in a forest. She grew up spending her days in peaceful seclusion, singing to the sparrows about her hopes and dreams and enjoying the companionship of the woodland animals. Until one day, the wind would carry her song throughout the kingdom. Only the valiant prince would follow the secret melody to discover her and her secret world, and, well . . . you know the rest.
I loved those stories, full of delights and divine intervention, a perilous journey or a furious battle, the blessing of the king, the kiss of true love, and the happily ever after. I had created an imaginary little world where I played the part of the woodland peasant, whiling away the days. But in my heart, I knew that my very own princess story would someday become reality, a tale to tell to the generations to come, beginning with my own seven daughters.