One of my favorite musicals is “Cinderella.”
A few fears back, I played the wicked stepmother in the Royal Players production of this Rodgers and Hammerstein jewel. It was my dream role.
Other than the wonderful music, the two sisters’ nastiness is the best part of the play. It typifies how ridiculous sisterly rivalry can be.
I don’t have a sister. I always wanted one and envied families that included several girls. One of my best friends had two. I thought she was the luckiest girl in the world. She would have given either or both of hers to me any day of the week.
As a sisterless being, I’ve found it interesting to watch the dynamics among my three granddaughters. With the right pairings, two can get along most of the time. But on certain days, in certain circumstances, the same two can be a volatile mix. With all three together, given enough time, two eventually will join forces and gang up against the third.
One such moment occurred when I was the baby-sitter while their parents were away on a five-day trip. The big scene was played out on a Saturday night as we were laying out church apparel for Sunday.
The thought of getting three girls, their little brother and myself ready to present to a public world by 10 o’clock in the morning was enough to give me the shakes. I wanted nothing left to chance.
Hayley, the oldest, already had her things ready. No problem. Score one for Hayley.
Max’s clothes, shoes, socks, etc., all had been laid out by his mother before she left town. No problem.
Enter Granddaughter No. 2 and Granddaughter No. 3, the middle two. Oh, yes, a problem.
Abbey, at the time still 8 but nearly 9, and Molly, 6, could wear a lot of the same clothes — but not the same shoes. Abbey was — and still is — a teeny-tiny version of the 1960s-70s model/actress Twiggy and has extremely narrow feet. Molly, at the time, was a round-faced, big-eyed, solid-as-a-rock 6-year-old with larger feet than her sister’s.
Their Sunday shoes were similar in every respect except size. For reasons I’ll never know, Abbey got mixed up and was absolutely positive that Molly’s shoes were hers.
Molly was just as staunch in her contention that her shoes were, in fact, hers. She was right, but her sister was determined she was mistaken.
The confrontation came as close to a scene from “Cinderella” as you can get without the glass slipper and a prince in search of a princess.
“It’s my shoe, Molly,” Abbey yelled.
“No, it’s not, Abbey,” Molly yelled back.
The mood escalated. Voices were raised. Tears flowed. This was no quick moment in time.
I wanted to let them work it out by themselves, but that wasn’t happening. A physical wrestle to the floor was the next thing if I hadn’t intervened.
“Girls, you can try on the shoes for me and then I can tell which ones are yours,” I told the two. It sounded like a reasonable, common-sense plan.
“My mamma told me I was supposed to wear these,” Abbey shrieked, hanging onto Molly’s shoes with the strength of a charging tiger.
“But she’s got MY shoes,” Molly screamed.
It went from bad to worse to beyond any skirmish I’d ever seen these two engage in. Usually, they were a compatible pair and could play together for hours and still be happy.
Finally, I managed to get Molly to squeeze her feet into the shoes Abbey insisted belonged to Molly. She could barely stand, much less walk, because they obviously were too small.
“These are not my shoes, Mimi,” Molly said in a loud tone. “They’re Abbey’s.”
I had to agree.
“Abbey, she’d break her leg if she tried to walk in those,” I said.
Truth be told, I’ve had footwear that probably fit me about as well, but not at the tender age of 6. Most females have to be older to be willing to suffer for the sake of a shoe.
“But THOSE are HER shoes,” Abbey argued between sobs. With voice quivering, she held the other pair close to her chest and said, “These are m-m-my sh-sh-shoes, Mimi. My mamma told me they were.”
No pledge to the flag was ever uttered with greater sincerity. It just didn’t change the fact that she was wrong.
Next, I had Abbey try on the pair belonging to Molly, but which Abbey still claimed as hers. They literally would have flopped off her feet had she tried to wear them out of the house.
As gently as I could, I finally convinced the hysterical 8-nearly-9-year-old girl that she was mistaken. Seeing the obvious did nothing to make her feel better.
If she had been willing to admit it, which she wasn’t, she would have confessed she just plain liked the other shoes better. I couldn’t see a nickel’s worth of difference in style, but when you’re 8-nearly-9 and have your mind made up, that’s pretty unimportant.
My inclination was to laugh at the ridiculous scene, but I knew better. I deserved a gold star for being able to keep a straight face.
With logic obviously not working, I brought up the “Cinderella” analogy.
“Abbey, do you remember when you came to see me as the stepmother in ‘Cinderella’ and there was the fight over the glass slipper and I screamed when the prince’s man tried to put it on my foot?”
That got her attention. If I do say so myself, it was a rather memorable scream.
“Remember how funny it was?”
The faint sign of a smile surfaced.
“That’s the way you and Molly are acting now,” I said. “You’re being so silly that you could be the stepsisters in ‘Cinderella.’ I think I’ll call you Portia and Joy.”
It’s awfully hard to admit you’ve been wrong, especially when it means conceding the one who’s right is your little sister. Eventually, Abbey did, but not without significant injury to her pride.
I’ll give her an “A” for spunk, though. Any female worth her salt will tell you that if there’s anything worth fighting for, it’s a pair of great-looking shoes.
Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.