August 3, 2023 at 6:25 a.m.

Her Highness

By Larry Perkinson

Our daughter died over two decades ago just before her nineteenth birthday.  Five years afterwards I found the strength to spend some time in April's room without crying uncontrollably or collapsing to the floor.  A sister had moved in, but little had been done to move April out.  Finally, when no one else was home, I cleaned a little, worked through some emotions, and began rearranging and remodeling.

Her bed was made for a princess.  When Julie and I brought it home from an antique store in Scottsburg, April saw a pile of rust and little potential.  After a week of sanding and priming the final coats of enamel made it suitable for the royal suite.  She did not turn down the ivory frame and its touches of gold and ebony trim.

With my girls returning in a few days, I calculated what could be accomplished. It was obvious that the bed did not need anything; but the dressers could use some fresh paint, and shelving could be added.  Unpackaged Barbies stared at me as I pushed and shoved things about.  With only a few Kens in the room, they wanted another man to boss around. Uncomfortable with the extra attention, I stored her doll collection in the closet and closed the door.  They are still there today.

I immersed myself in the changes, especially after I stopped looking for an April moment.  In the beginning I fully expected to find treasures.  Would there be a hidden letter? Maybe some creative projects were in the room.  She loved to draw with her five-year-old sister.  I know she wrote poetry.

Once the makeover started, the treasure-hunt fever subsided.  The trash was taken out.  Boxes for the girls to sort through were placed in the garage, and a vision for the room began to take shape, yet when I moved the bed away from the wall, an unlabeled cassette tape was visible.  The dust hinted that it had lain beneath the headrest frame for a long time, My heart raced as I picked it up.  Was it blank? Would she be singing Mercedes Benz again?

The first side of the tape ended with a partial story, wishfully I turned the cassette and reinserted it.  There was more. The girls had recorded their own plays and captured an entire afternoon of theatrics.  As one particular production ended, an argument erupted.

The oldest sister proclaimed her right to direct the next skit as she announced, "I am the Queen of England."

Not to be outdone, the second asserted, "So what?  I am the Queen of France."

Although she had not attended school and had little background in geography and history, the youngest was far more empathic than her siblings.  She wielded supreme authority with a decisive and drawn out. "Well, I am the Queen of Kentucky."

To this day it is a favorite memory.  I am blessed to have drama queens and princesses in my life.