Guest Author – Princess Jen Tucker
As a special treat, I have the fabulous and always funny Jen Tucker on my blog today. I am so happy she is here and hope you will enjoy her post as much as I did. I laughed but I also choked up reading about her grandmother, who reminded me so much of both of my own. My grandmothers both knit me sweaters with the label, “Made especially for Meredith with love.” And I think my grandmothers even wore the same glasses – Long live the 70s! Once you have laughed and cried re-living Jen’s experience with her grandmother, please check out my guest post on her blog where I share some of my feelings (and pictures) on Halloween. http://authorjlht.blogspot.com/2012/10/tricks-and-treats-with-meredith-schorr.html
Without further ado, I hand the baton off to Jen:
Thank you Meredith for letting me stop by your blog today while on tour for my new memoir, The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt! You’re so sweet to let me take over the page today, and I appreciate it very much. Meredith and I were chatting about topics, and I told her that with Halloween quickly approaching, I knew exactly what I wanted to share with you all.
The secret’s out. I’m a princess.
Growing up a child of The Great Depression, June Ponicki quickly learned to stretch a buck. Making the most of her dollars included crafting clothes for herself, and younger siblings. As a young wife, this talent for sewing carried on to making items for her children, David and Becky. The tag in the collar read, “Stitched with love by June.” As a little girl, it didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted a label just like that in my clothes. And it didn’t take long for me to catch on that June wanted to sew for me; her only grandchild.
Every Christmas, there were meticulously crafted robes and pajamas waiting for me under the tree. Unlike most wide-eyed children ripping through paper to get to the toys, new jammies were my favorite gift of all gifts to open from her. In “olden times,” when we went back to school the day after Labor Day, Grandma always had newly tailored dresses waiting for me when we’d spend the holiday weekend at her house in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her arthritic hands would not be deterred from making me the best dressed gal the first day back to class. For the first day of third grade, Grandma created a blue, Swiss dot, flouncy dress for me. It twirled on the playground, unlike my friend Betsy’s Sergio Valente jeans. Betsy had nothing on me.
Labor Day weekend of 1978, Grandma took me to the fabric store. The heavy, metal doors swung open to reveal endless fabrics and rich patterns that danced in my eyes. “Jenny, make sure you look at all of the patterns before making a choice. Grandma will make you anything you want, Sweetheart.” She always called me sweetheart.
I spun the cylindrical towers of patterns, looking for just the right one. Clowns, cats, bunnies… Nope. Those were inferior choices. I went quickly about my search, knowing exactly what I wanted. My eyes sparkled and a smile spread quickly as I grabbed the perfect one off the rack. The princess gown pattern. Not only could you craft a dress, but also the pointy princess hat complete with veil was included too! Oh boy! “Grandma! This is it! I wanna be a princess! A pretty princess!”
Ever the stickler for proper English, Grandma lovingly took my face into her hands, lecturing me with, “You want to be a princess, Jenny.”
“Yes! Yes, I know I do! Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, Grandma?” I was floating above grammatical errors. Why? Because in my heart-of-hearts, at the ripe old age of seven, I knew princesses lived above speaking in correct sentences. Princesses lived a life of sparkle, and ponies, and magic; and a prince always arrived just in the nick of time to kiss their sleepy bodies back to life. Once Grandma made my dress gown, the keys to my very own kingdom would suddenly appear. My destiny as royalty would be fulfilled. I would be a princess.
I remember the day the package arrived at my house. I tore through the layers of newspaper with anticipation to catch a glimpse at its contents. I carefully removed each item one at a time. The pink satin gown with gold brocade trim. A liquid gold, braided belt. A tall, pointy hat, with remarkable height and grandeur; it was my crowning glory. All I needed was my dog Jin Jin (yes, named after the pooch on I Dream of Jeannie) to turn into my royal escort. I looked at her, closed my eyes and wished really, really hard to change her into something; anything princess! Despite my best efforts, Jin Jin remained a Lhaso Apso. Darn the luck.
I tripped up the stairs racing to my bedroom. I couldn’t wait to try it all on. As the dress slipped over my head, I felt a little taller. A little more regal. A little prettier. What is it about a princess dress that jazzes up your life a tad? I pranced downstairs to show my mom.
“Oh, Jenny… It’s beautiful! Grandma worked so hard on that; just for you.”
I wanted to look in the bathroom mirror. The one over the sink that I could only see into while perched on the lip of the bathtub, with one arm outstretched, clinging to life on the towel bar and the other above me holding the curtain rod. A maneuver I learned while young that served me well into high school until my first floor length mirror waltzed into my life. “Mommy,’ I yelled while being a tub-thumping stunt girl, ‘I’m a princess! A real live princess.” It didn’t matter that my castle and moat were missing from the picture. My metamorphosis was now complete.
Trick-or-treating came and went, yet my princess costume remained in my wardrobe rotation. My mother was not thrilled. I wore it to school. I wore it to the supermarket. I wore it to swim team practice. That was until the day a boy named Robbie in my Sunday School class mercilessly made fun of me while wearing my princess gown to church. I think my mom slipped him some candy on the down-low for his devilry.
I’d like to thank Robbie for being the inspiration for the witch costume my grandma sewed for me the following year. While waiting for fall to reappear, I made it my mission to learn how to cast spells on people. My goal was not to turn Robbie into a frog. I wanted to POOF him into a princess. That’d show him why you never mess with a princess with witchy tendencies.
Jen Tucker has never met a gluten free cupcake that she didn’t like. A former teacher and educator, she has worked with children in school, hospital, and enrichment settings. In her years at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, it was Jen’s job to bring the “hands on fun” into the visiting exhibitions in the galleries. Jen broke away from writing children’s books and thematic units in 2011 with her memoir, The Day I Wore my Panties Inside Out which was a semifinalist in the humor category in the 2011 Goodreads Book Awards. She is a monthly guest blogger at the website, Survival for Blondes where she marries humor with preparedness. Jen lives in West Lafayette, Indiana with her husband, Mike, and their three children.
You can purchase Jen’s latest book, The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt, here. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, her blog or on her website at Princess with a Pen.
Hmmm, now I know why Grace wants to wear her Hello Kitty boots all of the time. Like mother, like daughter? What a great post, and I just fell in love with your grandmother.
What a sweet story! I love that you wore your princess costume everywhere, Jen! That is adorable! The world would be a better place if we could ALL wear princess costumes every day. A pox on Robbie for making you feel silly about your beautiful gown!
Oh, and you took me back with that photo of the Butterick pattern. I remember those well!
You were lucky to have such a kind and generous grandmother, Jen. Thanks for sharing your story with us!
Awww. What a lovely story. And that photo of the two of you is adorable. I’ve got the warm fuzzies now. 🙂