I live with Snow White.
Seriously. You are already, I can sense, adjusting for my sense of dramatic irony.
But unusually, I must advise you that I speak literally when I say, really, I definitely do live with Snow White.
I have to own that little is said about the character of Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. What they do say is that when she flees the wicked stepmother through the forest, somehow the wild animals must perceive she is special, for they do not attempt to harm her.
And the rest, as they say, is Disney.
The Snow White with whom I live is currently in her eleventh year cruising towards her twelfth. Her eyes are the brightest fieldmouse eyes, and her hair a lustrous ebony. In her heart is pure goodness, and she has not got a bad word to say about anyone.
It is because she is so very flawless that she does not always understand malice in others. There have been youngsters out there who would like to take a pop at Snow White, youngsters whose self-image is so low that blemishing hers might boost theirs. But my Snow White drifts through a pleasant life like a princess through a flower meadow and somehow the bad stuff just slips away.
At school her friends protect and cosset her. They recognise, I think, a rare soul.
And if she is Snow White, that would make me Mother.
I am not an evil crazed apple-poisoning queen, I hasten to add. But I do harbour bad thoughts occasionally. I have a fiery tempestuous approach to life, a polarised set of opinions, and a deplorable attitude to housework.
Snow White has taken her time sizing the situation up. And now, as she approaches her teenage years, she is beginning to take the reins of her life, and inextricably linked with her reins are mine.
Snow White came downstairs last night and slept on the sofa in our bedroom. She has horrific nightmares, and loves to curl up in the waiting duvet and listen to our night-time audiobook along with us. The Prisoner Of Zenda advanced companionably with every passing hour.
We woke to the holiday morning and Snow White gracefully accepted her morning cup of hot chocolate. She sat patiently waiting while I wrote; we showered, dressed and slipped downstairs to breakfast.
She sang quietly in the most melodious voice imaginable as she busied herself about the breakfast things. On the side was a conglomeration of yesterday’s old pots and mugs. They troubled Snow White considerably.
“Mummy,” she said, “I’m just going to clear the dishwasher. It looks so untidy there: we can clear it so we feel comfortable.”
Riiiiiiight. For eleven years I have waited until after breakfast to clear such detritus. But for Snow White things must be just-so. I got up. Obediently, I cleared the dishwasher and together we stacked everything in.
“There,” said Snow White. “Now. Doesn’t that feel better?”
The child is the father of the man.
Outside the birds sang, and Snow White commentated on their movements, Mrs Blackbird and Mr Blackbird and all. I expect they all know her personally.
Today was a three-dog-day.
I never had Snow White down for a dog lover. But I talked to her about Macaulay the other day. Macaulay of the charm, questionable breath and rank forest odour.
“Macaulay is a very caring dog,” she pronounced. “When I was worrying about my maths homework, he just came up and put his head on my knee in sympathy.”
Well. I hrumphed silently. He’s never done that for me.
After breakfast, the three dogs needed a long forest walk, and we hitched them up and headed out.
Out there in the forest Snow White was once again at her antics. The dogs, today, adored her. She ran ahead and threw sticks and talked to them. Spice was instantly in the best of moods and tore round, stick in mouth, a one-doggie-party. Macaulay sported a doggie grin and even strange obsessive Clover laid her stick eerily at my daughter’s feet in slavish adoration.
Living with Snow White is like having a very small magistrate at hand. I can no longer make sweeping statements about people, or animals, or misjudge them. For the unrelentingly good person at my side gently reminds me that what I have said is not so: that I have just polarised a situation which has shades.
And so: in one respect I tread a well-worn path as the jaded mother of a dove-white soul. But in another, no-one has written down how one might respond positively to such extraordinariness in one’s own backyard. For I wish to buck the wicked stepmother trend.
I’d like to enjoy the next few years, watching Snow White grow up.