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  • Dear Millie.

    Today the poster of the dog that I made for you fell off the wall. I thought that it got torn.

    You must have seen something in my face.

    that's all right, mummy, it will be okay, we will just take a trip to ikea and we will get a new one.

    You touched my arm and looked into my eyes, something you were practising because someone had seen your sister do the same and had made a big fuss over how charming it was. I think you were angling for cake.

    But, I told you, there's a problem with that. It is the only one in the whole world. It is different.

    You laughed.

    mummy, mum
    mummy -
    you don't EVEN LIKE DOGS.

    Which was a little bit true.

    And I as I started to tell you the story, you and your sister evaporated off into another room and were gone to play tea parties and

    well

    Here is the story.

    Once upon a time, when you were just tiny, so tiny in my tummy, before we had barely began to even think of you, I went to take art classes. I thought that it would be a Good Idea, one of the things I might not get to do when you got here.

    It was at one of the best colleges in the state, and I took the classes at night times after I had finished work, catching the tram down St Kilda Road past all of those elm trees you like in spring. The teacher was a proper Artist, and he knew all the rules, because he had had some gallery shows and little postcards printed with his name on with the information for his next show. He handed the postcards out with a nonchalant air, like, whatever, come if you want I don't care.

    Anyway, the teacher wanted us to create things in the context of a story, and I like telling stories, so I got excited about telling the story of you-to-be in my belly, and how much we were looking forward to you. And once I told the story, and other people made up stories about ambient light and juxtaposition and pain, the story of you seemed a bit mundane. I was ashamed, and a bit cross that I had shared anything in the first place.

    I had in my bag something that I had bought for you. It was a Little Golden Book called 'I Can Fly'. This was a book that also has a story, and the story is:

    Once upon a time, when I was little, about 5 years old, I used to wonder why I didn't look like any of the fairy princesses heroines farm girls anyone anywhere. The only one who looked like me in all of my books was the girl in 'I Can Fly'.

    One day, Brian Shellebeck from down the road was telling about some mean old man that had eaten the neighbour's dog. He was a Ching Chong Chinaman. Brian Shellebeck dragged his eyelids up to emphasise the point.

    'What's a Ching Chong Chinaman?'

    Brian stopped. He peered into my eyes. 'YOU'RE a Ching Chong Chinaman.'

    Clearly, this was a bad thing to be. I had never seen pictures of a Chinaman Princess ever; they were probably not even worth writing about, or maybe they were not nice. I didn't protest. How could I protest if it was fact written into my face?

    Later that night when I was alone I cried and I didn't know why. And then I found 'I Can Fly' and I read it again, and then again. I studied the little girl in the book. She looked like me and was very happy, and so maybe I could be happy too.

    After that day I yearned to be normal and not different. Sometimes I would remember and think about the little girl in that book, and I would feel okay again.

    So when I knew that you were coming, I imagined your face, and how it would tell the world of your ancestors, against your will, even when you felt like not telling anything about yourself at all. I worried about whether you might sometimes feel like an outsider, or invisible, or even just a little bit less pretty than all of the Cinderellas with blonde hair and blue eyes. I bought 'I Can Fly' so that you could find a storybook friend with black hair and a smiling face, and on this particular evening I was carrying it in my bag.

    And when I had to draw for class, I flicked through the book:

    I AM MERRIER
    THAN A TERRIER

    and I decided that I would draw that dog, just for you.
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