A VERY SPECIAL STORY
During the past few days, I have been reveling the local festivities in Vilanova y la Geltru near Barcelona. Carnival is a genuinely fun time. The people with beaming grins on their faces, dance, and parade in the streets while enjoying themselves. Watching the jolly scenes took me back many years when the carnival season was soon to come around in Tenerife.
Now I am going to tell you a very poignant story, which I would like to share it with you all.
The actual year evades me, but it was round about 1986. My children and I were living in an urbanization called Chayofa, situated up in the hills, south of Tenerife. At that time, I was running my business in the coastal and very touristic town of “Los Cristianos.”
We were coming up to the big events of Carnival in Tenerife. They maintain that the Mardi Gras in Santa Cruz, the capital city, is the second best after Rio. All the towns and villages on the island have wonderful celebrations that last several days. I heard that many businesses were going to enter a candidate for the infantile carnival queen in Los Cristianos. Since I always liked to participate on these occasions, I decided that I would also add a competitor. But of course, I had to find a child! My daughter was a teenager, and as much as I would have loved her to partake, she couldn’t.
I donned my thinking cap. Why is it that kids are everywhere, but when you want to find one, they are invisible? Then I remembered the local supermarket when we lived. I used to shop there on my way home in the evenings. At the back of the building was a derelict shack where a woman and her many offspring lived. Whenever I stopped off at the supermarket, there lingering by the door, were several of said woman's scruffy children. But one little girl always called my attention. The only way to describe her is to say "she was an utter ratbag!" Snotty nose, filthy dirty, ragged clothes and invariably poked her tongue out at every customer (Including me) who entered the store. Because of my search for a suitable candidate and not having much luck. This little ragamuffin came to my mind. I found out from Julian, my youngest son that her name was Sonia. So I consulted him about entering her for the competition, and if he thought, that with good scour and polish, she could be presentable?” He reckoned she would be perfect. Taking his advice, I sent him off to find Kiddiewinks and convince her to participate.
Within a short while, he returned with Sonia and the rest of her bedraggled siblings in tow. Hence the total makeover of our little Tatterdemalion began. I bathed her; I washed her tangled hair, I scrubbed her dirty nails. (Eliza Doolittle never had so much attention) WOW! Spic-and-span Sonia was beyond recognition. Then the tremendous job of taking measurements and creating the outfit was the next step.
I decided to make her dress in silver lame with pale pink and lilac tulle. I used about twenty meters of fabric and consequently had to add minute wheels to help slide the massive skirt along the floor. Her headdress was an incredibly tall hat with feathers and matched the colors of the outfit. Between my children and I, we taught Sonia how to walk, how to stand, how to sit and how to smile. It was a lot of work coaching, designing, plus many nights spent at the sewing machine.
Then before we knew it, the big day was upon us.
We arrived at the hall where the event was to take place. Unfortunately, Sonia’s Mother couldn’t come with us. The other parents presumed Sonia was my daughter and was to prove a slight problem later on. Like many events, everything was very disorganized, and we had a massive delay of several hours. I noticed that most of the other little girls were whining, moaning and even crying. Not Sonia! She was awesome! This incredible little girl never once made a murmur. She never complained, she just sat patiently waiting for the presentation to start.
Finally, the moment came when the children had to parade for the election. Our little scarecrow was an example to everyone present. She walked onto that floor exactly as we had shown her. Standing tall, with her head held high she slowly drifted across the floor like a perfect lady. I was so proud of her. Just watching this tiny urchin from a very deprived behave the way she did, brought tears to my eyes.
She stole the show, and of course, she won! I don’t think that she won because of the outfit. I believe she won because of who she was. A deprived child who deserved the first prize in every sense of the word. Sadly, the other Mothers were furious. They started to scream and shout. They said it wasn’t fair that a foreigner’s kid should win. I felt at that moment that if they had had stones at hand, I wouldn’t be telling this story today.
A few days later, the fabulous Carnival parade took place. Sonia, elected young queen, behaved like a true trooper. She looked so beautiful as she sat on the float, high up above the crowds. I will always remember her happy, smiling face radiant with joy.
Her Mother came to the parade and to my relief the locals discovered that Sonia was undeniably a Canarian. All's well that ends well. What I am about to write next, is what made all the hard work and sleepless nights worthwhile.
Later, my son told me something that I will never forget. Apparently, Sonia had asked her Mom, a few weeks before the celebrations if she could have a princess outfit for the carnival. The poor woman had to tell her that they didn’t have enough money for such things. Unwittingly I had been the “Fairy Godmother” who made her wish come true. She became more than a princess; she became a beautiful sparkling queen of all queens.
God Bless you, Sonia, wherever you may be.