The world was her stage and I secretly gave her the title, Queen of Everything.
She was only ten years old yet carried herself like royalty, spending her afternoons walking an imaginary runway in her mom’s heels, schoolbooks precariously stacked atop her head. I looked up to her in much the same way I did my sister and cousins, but even then I knew Mabel was different.
Mabel insisted on wearing dresses with lace trim and overlay, a satin bow and organza ruffles around the hemline with a ruffled petticoat, even when we weren’t attending a party! Her bedroom was filled with delicate items, her pure white eyelet bedspread covered in matching pillows and dolls with porcelain faces. Yet, Mabel’s presence seemed to anchor the chichi decor as though it would be lost without her, much like her extensive Barbie doll collection which sounded more like girlfriends than toys when she spoke of them.
She would enthrall me with her detailed description of Holiday Barbie dresses, accessories included. Her eyes took on a faraway look, and in that moment I knew she was picturing herself making a grand entrance at the Prince’s Winter Ball. It was the same look I had witnessed each time she slowly made her way down the basement stairs during the pretend beauty pageants we subjected our large Cuban family to on more than one occasion. The rest of us “contestants” still joke about Mabel being crowned time after time, but that’s the effect Mabel had on everyone. She just had a way of approaching life like she was already the queen and we were her subjects.
I have carried the memory of Mabel consistently accepting her title with elegance and the standard pageant wave, yet what I remember most vividly is how she never failed to hug each of us before stepping forward to accept her flowers. Only then would she make her way center stage, head held high, tiny tiara precariously balanced on top of her long black mane. She would don the homemade winner’s sash before taking her victory walk around the room, blowing kisses all the way.
Next week, Mabel will enter another room where all eyes will once again be on her.
This time she faces a more daunting competition. Mabel was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and will undergo a double mastectomy. I know she will face this challenge much like she has approached every day of her life, head held high and with the grace of a winner. However, every Queen needs her loyal subjects. That’s why I’ll be there for her victory walk. I’m bringing a new girlfriend too. Pink Ribbon Barbie meet Queen of Everything.