By the age of four, all of the girls in the town were little women. Most of them were miniature versions of their own mothers, but some were modelled on the inspirational women of the world. None were modelled on the famous or celebrated.
Barbara’s daughter was named Celia, after a great grandmother who had worked tirelessly for the poor in her neighbourhood. When Celia was born she was dressed in sombre baby clothes, specially manufactured for the townspeople. Although four was the age of change, it was unusual for baby girls to wear bright colours at all. The elders thought it risked inflaming the boys, who would in turn grow up to be inflamed men. Boys, however, could wear any colour and style of dress they pleased.
On her fourth birthday, Celia had one present and that was her outfit. Barbara was employed as a social worker for a nearby town, where she had often seen the trouble that could happen if young people were allowed to behave as they liked. So Celia’s present was a set of clothes suitable for a social worker. Her mother had wrapped them in sturdy brown paper and as she undid the string holding the package closed, Celia smiled to herself. What a smart little woman she would be at school.
A girl of four would be expected to dress herself, so Celia went into her bedroom to change. She looked at herself in the mirror. She wore pale pink polo neck under a navy cardigan, a beige corduroy skirt, thick cream tights with brown mary-janes and a pale pink round-necked jacket, just like Barbara. She smiled at her reflection, much smarter than Carrie, she thought. Carrie’s mother was a secretary so she had just a plain white shirt and black knee-length skirt.
Celia went to find her mother and presented herself for inspection. Later that day she would be presented to the elders, but she wanted her mother’s approval most of all. Celia stood still whilst her mother looked her over. Barbara smiled and held out her hand to her daughter in a rare show of affection. Celia slipped her small hand into her mother’s large, hot hand.
“I’ve got you another small present,” she said and handed Celia a velvet box. “This was my mother’s and she gave it to me when I turned four. I wore it for years, until your father gave me this one. Let’s put it on you.”
Celia opened the box and inside was a pink hairband, in just the same shade as her polo neck. Barbara took the band from the box and slid it into Celia’s hair. Her fringe fell under the band and the sides of her sharp bob were scooped up and off her face. Barbara arranged her daughter’s hair so it looked just like her own.
“Thank you Mother, it’s just right,” she said. “One day I will pass it to my own daughter, when she turns four.”