Note: This is one of four narratives written for the Pine Ridge Retreat Center Puppet Ministry
April 3rd, 1996 is not a famous day in history. There were no great battles, no famous deaths or births, and no great speeches or turn of events. April 3rd 1996 was just an ordinary day unless you were Charlotte.
Charlotte was a pretty girl from a very rich family. She had lots of pretty dresses, and a room all to herself where she could play with as many toys as she could want. On a normal day, Charlotte would get up and wash her face before eating breakfast that servants brought to her in bed before having a tea party with her favorite dolls. April 3rd, 1996 was no different and Charlotte woke up, washed her face and had breakfast in bed.
“Sarah,” Charlotte said to the maid who brought her breakfast, “do you think mother will let me play outside today?”
“Oh I don’t know miss.” Sarah said. “She’s never let you play outside before.”
“I know.” Charlotte said. “but do you think today might be different?”
“Well I suppose anything is possible isn’t it? I’ll ask your mother for you in just a moment. Now eat your breakfast.”
When Charlotte finished her breakfast, she had tea with her favorite dolls: Ms. Ellen, Mr. Daniel, and Ms. Ruth. “You know,” she told her dolls over biscuits and tea, “I don’t think I would be too sad if Mother didn’t let me out to play. I like it in here. I have all my bestest friends here, and we play all day. I don’t need to go outside to play with you all. I wonder if I should tell Sarah not to bother Mother after all. It’s not like it’s a big deal is it?”
Just as Charlotte was thinking of asking Mr. Daniel to fetch Sarah, Sarah came back to the room.
“I’m sorry Miss,” Sarah said, “but your Mother says you cannot go outside today.”
“Oh well.” Charlotte said.
Now any normal day, Sarah would just have walked away and stood outside the door in case Charlotte needed anything. But April 3rd, would not turn out to be just another normal day, because Sarah decided to stay and talk to Charlotte a bit.
“I wonder Miss,” Sarah said. “When was the last time you went outside?”
“Oh I’ve never been outside.” Charlotte said. “I can see the sun, and the sky, and the clouds from my window there, but I’ve never been outside.”
“But you’ve opened your window right?”
“Nope,” Charlotte said. “The window doesn’t open.”
“Now, when you say “you’ve never been outside,” do you mean that in your whole entire life, you’ve never been outside?”
“Nope. I’ve never even been outside this room. Unless you count my bathroom over there. My last maid, her name was Esther, and she tried to take me down the kitchens once, but Mother fired her.”
“Mother says that this room is the only safe place in the world.”
“But…I mean you’ve never been outside and felt the wind on your face? Or watched a storm roll in from an open window? You’ve never picked an apple fresh off a tree, or jumped into a lake on a hot summer’s day?”
“No,” Charlotte said. “Why have you?”
“Everyone I know your age has done these things miss.”
“You know other girls my age?”
“Miss, I don’t mean to sound rude, but, how old are you exactly?”
“I’m 26 years old.”
“Miss, I’m 26 years old. And all my friends are about the same age too, and we’ve done all these things.”
“They sound wonderful. But Mother says that everything I could ever want or need is right here.”
“Yes, except for those things that aren’t. After all, you are the one who said you wanted to go outside.”
Charlotte was suddenly very sad. Everyone else her own age had done so many things, had lived so much, and even though she had all the toys she could ever want, and a servant to bring her breakfast in bed every day, she was still sad. She was the only person who had never been outside. She began to cry. Sarah did the only thing she could think of.
“Would you like to go outside?”
“Mother won’t let me.”
“You can still go outside. You’ll never be able to play with all these toys again, and you’ll never be able to have breakfast in bed brought to you by a servant unless you work really really hard, but you can go outside. If you think you can give this all up then I’ll take you outside.”
Charlotte sat on the floor of her room for a long moment thinking. Everything she knew. She would have to give up everything she knew so that she could live a life, a real life with other people and not just dolls for company. She stood up, put on her coat and shoes and turned to Sarah.
“I’m ready. Take me from my gilded cage.”
And to think, April 3rd, 1996 was just another ordinary day.