Ancient History

Follow Me?



I have been sorting through the boxes of memorabilia my parents gleefully drove 250 miles and gleefully carried into my house, where they gleefully said adios to my junk a little too gleefully. They no longer wanted to store my yearbooks, dried corsages, stuffed animals, blue ribbons from cow-pie throwing contests, paperback novels, or my paper dolls. I left their home long ago, but my copy of Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret was hesitant to fly the coop. We’ve been reunited. Oh, Margaret, getting your period really isn’t as much fun as you thought it would be.

Aidan watched with great interest as I went through several of the boxes. She really liked the shoebox full of late 1970s to early 80s paper dolls and their fashions. We laughed as we read the paper dolls’ names and ages, which I had written on the back of each—Steve, age 23. Patricia, age 19. Karen, age 16. The oldest paper doll was 27. I probably played with her as though she were the grandmother. We laughed at the clothes and I pointed out my old favorites, evidenced by the tattered tabs. I labelled the clothes too. There was a “disco” outfit, a “restaurant with boyfriend” ensemble, and gowns worthy of being worn in competition for Miss Teen Paperdoll USA.

As we neared the bottom of the box, we found Diana. The Princess of Wales. rip

Who is she? Aidan asked.

“She was a real-life princess,” I said, my voice catching a little and surprising me.

Like many young girls, she was delighted to hear about a real-life princess. I thought about how much detail to give her at the age of eight-and-a-half. Did she need to know about Diana’s profound sadness and loneliness, her eating disorders, her loveless marriage, her life in the glare of the limelight, her tragic and too-early death?

Aidan was born in July of 1997. Diana died August of 1997. Our daughter was a squalling and furious newborn the night we strapped her into her carseat for a calming car ride. My husband and I had been watching a video. We turned off the VCR and noticed Tom Brokow was beginning a special report.. It was late at night so we knew something big must have happened. Brokow related what was known at the moment—Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi, had been in an accident while fleeing paparazzi in Paris. There was no word on their conditions. We decided to watch for a few minutes before heading out to track down the sandman.

She fell asleep in her carseat after a few minutes. For hours we flipped through each network’s coverage until the official news conference confirmed the deaths of three individuals, including a real-life princess.

I held the paper Diana as I thought about that night. I thought about watching the royal wedding as a ten-year-old. We were on a family vacation and in a hotel room in Omaha, Nebraska when Charles and Diana wed. It was spectacular and dreamy—the carriages, horses, guards, flowers, smiles. Diana’s poufy dress, diamonds, her Prince. They waved from a balcony as thousands cheered. It never occured to me anything bad would happen to the Prince and Princess. Only happily ever after made sense then.

Only happily ever after makes sense to my young daughter right now. I could have shattered that for her and told her of Diana’s tears and fiery death, but I knew she would hear the whole story eventually. We all hear it, as we grow up—the whole story.

Diana was a real-life princess. She died, when you were a newborn baby. She was beautiful and generous.

And it wasn’t enough.

I pray my daughter will find her value as God’s child, as a talented and special girl who will grow into a woman someday with none of the problems of a real-life princess.

12 comments to Princess

  • Wow, pretty darn good. I thought you said you didn’t blog as well when you were pregnant? Not so.

  • Mel

    I remember that day clearly. Only I was pregnant then and we went to sleep, thinking Diana would be fine and woke up in the morning to find she wasn’t. So sad. (My baby was born the following February.)

  • Gretchen, our lives are parallel. I was nine when they married, though I remember watching that wedding as if it were yesterday. And my oldest was born in JUNE 97, so I was holding a squalling newborn that same night, shaking my head in disbelief at the pictures on the TV. Such a tragedy.

  • Laura

    Hmm, makes me feel out of touch. I had a baby in September of that year . . . but I don’t remember a thing about Diana. I must have heard all about it, but I think I was in oblivion mode. To be a princess is no longer a very desirable position, if it ever really was. It’s better now to be America’s Next Top Model, or an American Idol, or . . .

  • Wow, this one brought tears to my eyes. I remember watching with the same wide-eyed wonder as Charles and Diana wed. That day crystallized my dream of the fairy-tale wedding. When I finally did marry in 1999, I had a gown made with a 6-foot long train. Nowhere near Diana’s 20-something foot train, but certainly inspired by it.

    She died the night before I moved out of my parents’ house for good, just before starting my first job as a lawyer. I stayed up most of the night praying that the horrible news would not come. She was, after all, a princess. This didn’t seem like a royal way to die. What about happily ever after?

    Your post makes me realize that Aidan and her generation don’t really have a real-life princess to inspire their dreams the way we had Diana. I hope that means that they can create their own dreams and their own lives and their own stories without feeling like they have to fit into someone else’s idea of ideal.

  • I think that is one day that everyone can remember where they were and what they were doing when they found out.

  • I remember that day. And the next day I brought out all my Princess Diana paperdolls and played with them once again (even though I was way beyond paper doll age). I still have them, although they will be in storage for several more years until Sydney is old enough.

    I remembered being surprised that I got emotional when I visited the infamous Parisian tunnel back in 2000. It really was such a sad day.

  • Mom-of-mopsy

    I am “gleeful” and touched as I read about your reminiscing with Aidan. It is great that you can share these things with her and I’m sure she treasures what was important to you as a girl her age.
    I too, am reminiscing over pictures from the past as I sort through things from your Grandmother’s house. It brings back fond memories and thankfulness that God gave us a wonderful heritage.

  • JoAnn

    I too, remember the day back in 1981, getting up before dawn to watch the princess being married, it was such a big part of my life. I was 11. I even wrote a term paper on Prince Charles and Diana in High School.

    The night of her death I was at a friends house and I remember thinking there was no way she would die, and I went to bed thinking of her, and that she would be fine the next morning. I woke at 3am, and turned on the tv, Channel E! was reporting she died. I remember running to wake up my friend, and we just sobbed together. It was so very sad.

    Like Shayne, I wonder who our girls will be looking to for dreams, and for me, Diana was just a princess that seemed so real. If it could happen to her, it could happen to me! Who is that today? Lindsey Lohan? Britney Spears? Gag. Our poor girls.

  • written so well!

    i remember watching the wedding, and then the news coverage that night in 1997 as well. so sad.

  • Hi Gretch. This is a nice post. It is good to check-in. I’m having a bad week. Maybe beginning to join blogsville again will be of some help. I don’t feel like a princess. Speaking of….we just rented THE greatest movie from Netflix. A Little Princess (I believe it was a remake of a Shirley Temple movie). It was so beautiful. All little girls should watch it with their mommies! Hope you are feeling great. I miss you.

  • I was 11 when she got married…

    I had very few requests when I was preparing for my own wedding–but one of them was that I wanted my bouquet to “be like Princess Di’s.”

    Got teary reading this post.

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