My daughters have always loved dressing up.  From the time they were very little we had a big wicker box, hinged with a lid, which was the stuff of dreams.  I can narrate the story of my daughter’s lives with the costumes in the box – from the magic cape, one side gold, the other silver, bought from a creative mother who ran a fancy dress business for a time, to the decaying, fraying, red silk jacket that was in my husband’s grandmother’s dressing up box, to the fairy wings that I persuaded Elder Daughter’s godmother to put on secretly when I picked her up from the station so she could pretend to be a Fairy Godmother, to the many charity shop finds.  The lace wedding dress, the emerald green evening dress that shimmers brown and gold, the pink puffy bridesmaid dress.  And there is a Red Indian headdress, a Turkish belly dancer’s skirt, a princess’s wimple, a pair of silver shoes and endless pairs of cast-off ballet pumps.  A red net skirt with black spots (ladybird).  A couple of long white shifts with tinsel round the bottom (angels).  Most of it homemade and cobbled together.

Red Riding Hood and the Flower Fairy

The girls may have grown older but they have not lost their taste for dressing up.  Just as they did when they were younger, they use costumes to try out new roles, to flex their wings as they begin to grow adult feathers.  Elder Daughter dressed from head to toe in red to be a Jam Tart at an all-girl food themed party for the birthday of a class-mate.  Lola B and her friend dressed as bride and bridesmaid and bounced high on the trampoline so their dresses flew out like bells when they came down. 

A confession.  I have an insatiable shoe fetish, which is probably a genetic flaw as both girls seem to have inherited it.  Though neither of them would appear outside the house in them, each girl has a favourite pair of very high shoes, which they like to practise walking in.  Not going anywhere.  Just walking. 

This is Lola B’s diminutive pair, bought last year with her own money for £4.00 and neatly lined up in her bedroom.  She probably slips her feet into them every day, at some point.  I find it amusing.  One minute both girls can have their heads bent over their books, intent on their homework.  The next thing I hear is the clip clopping of stilettoes on the tiled floor in the hall, and a daughter appears who has magically grown four inches.  In their imagination they are different, not just taller.  I imagine that boys get the same thrill from computer games – becoming the character they are animating.  The man or woman they want to become.

Lola B minced around for a while, stood on the sofa so that her heels perilously missed piercing the fabric of the cushion, and so that she could admire her new twisted hairdo from an earlier visit to the hairdressers.  I told her to get off and she sat down, admiring her shiny shoes, circling her feet this way and that.  Then her face fell.  She really loved these shoes, she explained, and never ever wanted to grow out of them.  She was imagining a day when they would no longer fit, and she would no longer be Cinderella. 

Not getting any bigger is a perpetual theme of Lola B’s life.  Not only does it mean not wearing her beautiful blue shoes any more, but it means not being able to ride her tiny pony, and it means more homework, less fun, less soft toys on the bed.  Nope, there are definitely no advantages to growing up and older.  More recently, Lola B has appeared somewhat resigned to her inevitable elevation, to the inescapable passage of time, but she is grieving her pre-teenage uncomplicated life that only has a few months left to run.  Tonight the sadness about the shoes symbolised her reluctance to say goodbye.  So that was yesterday.

Earlier today, I was walking home from work through the shopping streets, dragging my heels.  As you get nearer my house the shops change to charity shops, pounds shops, cheap butchers, low cost supermarkets.  I came to my favourite charity shop.  It is my favourite because, right at the back, after all the books and the odd bits of china, there is a “vintage” rail.  Less than a month ago I had found a wonderful yellow tweed swing coat, with four patch pockets secured by mother of pearl buttons.  It was American with a yellow silk lining, and probably 50 years old, but hardly worn.  I was so happy to find it, and took it straight away to my favourite dry cleaners, run by a lovely Turkish family, so they could clean it.  They could tell how delighted I was with it, even though I will have to wait until winter to wear it.

Today I browsed the books, finding a history of the House of Lords that I thought might interest my husband, a novel by Alice Walker that I thought Elder Daughter would like, and a brand new copy of The Old Man and the Sea.  I also found these:

Two sizes bigger and just sitting there on the shelf.  Funny old world.