Prina had been sent to her room with four minutes to change for dinner. Her teeth were brushed, her face was washed and her fingernails shone with a bright new layer of bright pink polish, but her shorts and t-shirt combination was not the nice-company outfit her mother had in mind.
Guests were on their way from out of town, and everyone in Prina’s family was supposed to get dressed in their very best clothing and hurry back to the kitchen to help set up. Prina walked over to her closet and slid open the door. One lone garment, pale blue and without pattern hung on a hanger in the middle of the rack. Careful not to let the dress slip off its hook, she carried it over to the bed and spread it out smooth. She frowned a little as she noticed the soft spots near her knees where the fabric was wearing thin. A patch of green covered up a rip on one sleeve where a pair of scissors had once snipped a hole instead of a loose thread, and the lace around the collar was so old that it looked grey and dull, instead of sharp and clean and pretty.
“Well, you have seen better days,” said Prina in the way her mother often did, “and I have worn you many times before. Maybe tonight something else might be better… like… my astronaut’s suit!” Prina turned around and faced her closet again. Hanging right in the middle was a puffy white NASA uniform, complete with space boots, an oxygen tank and a large round helmet with a shiny golden face shield. She had to reach way up on her tiptoes to get everything off the shelves but eventually it was all spread out on the bed, ready for her examination. “You are indeed a wonderful outfit to wear,” she observed, thoughtfully tapping one finger against her chin. “But I think the helmet might make conversation a little tricky. And what if gravity suddenly switched off like it does in outer space?! Then the food would go everywhere! We’d have to eat on the ceiling! No, no. That won’t work. Maybe the mermaid costume.”
Turning back to the closet, Prina retrieved the lovely long green tail and the silver sequined tank top. She found two seashell earrings that clip on and added them to the pile beside the astronaut’s suit and her old dress. “Well,” she smiled, “It sure would be a fun to show up for dinner as a mermaid! But it would be difficult to greet our guests at the door without legs to walk there. And I don’t think Daddy would let me flood the floor so I could swim. It might be easier if I keep my legs. Perhaps a circus performer.”
The closet was growing, in the same way that a balloon expands as you blow it up: the doors were wider and taller than they had once been, and the drawers were stuffed with hats and scarves and shoes, all overflowing. A hundred hangers were stuffed in a row, displaying vibrantly colourful outfits three layers deep. A look of satisfaction spread across her face as she smoothed out the leotard and feathery bandana of a flying trapeze artist. Attached at the waist was a tiny pocket of crushed-up chalk. The powder would make holding on to the swinging bar safer, but it also sent a cloud of dust into the air every time she reapplied. Because the dust made it hard to breathe, she set aside the entire attire and dove back into her closet for more.
One choice after the next was turned down by the little girl: the firefighter uniform and the parka-mukluk combination were both abandoned due to their encouragement of extreme heat; she cast off the superhero disguise for fear of catching her cape under the leg of a chair; she repackaged the jungle-cat fur to save the sinuses of those with sensitive allergies, the mechanic’s overalls because of grease stains and the suit of armor for the risk of rust. She weighed the idea of wearing Christmas pajamas for a moment, but quickly decided to pass just incase it snowed and the plows couldn’t get out in time for their guests to arrive safely.
“Dressing for dinner is harder than I thought,” said Prina glumly as she stared at the magnificent mountain of clothing options now spilling over the edges of her bed and pooling on her floor. She tossed her fashion model garments to one side along with the stilt-like high heels, the pirate patch and coat and wooden leg and real live parrot, the karate-man’s black belt, the medieval princesses’ long sleeves, the lifeguard’s red shirt and the sheriff’s gold badge. Her closet had become the size of a gigantic warehouse full of so many props and wardrobe options that it would make your head spin! And yet, absolutely nothing she tried on seemed to work.
Sitting on her bed atop the towering heap of costumes, Prina scrunched up her face to have a think. “I have nothing to wear!” she lamented. “Everything I own is too sparkly or too leathery, too pointy, too furry, too slippery, too glow-in-the-darky, too tight or too baggy, too stripey, too dotty, too matchy or not matchy enough! But there is one thing.”
So Prina clambered down off her pile and started to dig; past the sheriff’s cowboy hat and the fashionista’s stilettos, past the superhero mask and the mermaid’s long tail. She shoved and pulled and dug her way down right to that very first dress… a gentle blue frock without the distraction of pattern, comfortable and soft with a personal touch of history. It was, after all, her very favourite one that she wore it for almost every important dinner, and tonight was certainly a special occasion. Carefully slipping the shoulders off of the hanger and up over her own head, Prina wriggled into her loveliest nice-company outfit, just as her mother called from the other room. “Coming!” she answered, closing her empty closet doors and twirling into the kitchen. “What do you think of this one, Mummy?”
Her mother smiled and kissed the top of her head. “A perfect choice.”