Mädchen March, Ph.D.
Black Forest, OH 44883
December 25, 2010
My Dear Creatives,
All of my freshmen students are twittering—in the Twentieth Century sense of the word at least; I assume in the other way as well—about your contest. Several of them have entered it with clever and, in my privileged opinion, often embroidered versions of their lives. Still, I admire your pursuit, and respect it, as it mirrors my own, less formal, survey of lives with fairy tale parallels.
I am a professor of Mythological Studies at Castleton College, and, as well as building cultural literacy in the young and pliable minds of eighteen-year-olds, I also try to teach my students to look at their lives with a little perspective, seeing the stories we study as metaphor. Oh, they have wonderful imaginations. Everyone can find some story, somewhere, with connection to their own; it’s why we have stories. But the ones who have true parallels are rare, and this is a good thing. The princesses of the Grimm Brothers and even the Disney tales your generation grew up with deal with terrible problems and sorrows we hope never to encounter. Dead mothers. Absent fathers. Injustice. People trying to kill them.
In the first fall semester of the millennium, however, I experienced a coincidence that, over the years, has borne out into the most unusual story. In short: I believe I have found what you are looking for! There were three girls in my freshman Folktales 101 class who had all lost their mothers. Two of them, Ashley St. Helens and Nevada LeBlanc, were friends from high school; they quickly bonded with the third, Linda Loveland. Special people, all of them; (teachers find, over the years, that the good ones travel in groups;) I have maintained a friendship with each of them over the years, and their unfolding lives have amazed me. They will amaze you.
Particularly Ashely St. Helens. When this young lady first walked into my classroom, I could see at once that she was a notch more confident, self-assured, and joyful than your average freshman co-ed, with a personal energy that flowed from a deep well-spring. (A nice sense of humor; in her First Day Interview, she mentioned a loathing of unicorns.) She was tall to begin with, but carried herself regally…and yet a little awkwardly, at the same time. ‘As if,’ was my first, surprising impression, ‘she had just recently learned to stand up straight.’ At first I had trouble identifying her, since the photographs in our original student file had come from their high-school application packet. I was trying to match up a flat-haired, blank-faced, sad, insecure thing, lost in a man’s t-shirt, with the radiant beauty that strode into my classroom each day: generous smile, sparkling eyes, strong voice. And her clothes. And her shoes! Ashley always looks expressively well put-together, creatively dressed, fun and elegant. Whence this transformation? Ashley was a mystery to me, and I longed to know her history.
I do not want to ruin any surprises for you, but I know you will see for yourself (if you can help me get her to write her full story), that she is the incarnation of Cinderella in this modern age. Please prepare yourself for a letter from her—I have been working hard at this; she’s a very busy person—and be very encouraging. She may be writing longhand, like me; we both find this quaint practice a soul-soothing meditiation.
Professor Mädchen March