Not all people are handsome or beautiful or witty or charming.
So thought Fanny, a small 12-year-old girl.
She thought herself unattractive.
Not ugly but not pretty.
It’s what’s on the inside that really counts, said Fanny’s mom.
Fanny rejected her mother’s attempt to make her feel better with that overused cliché. Her mother churned out clichés whenever something in the family hadn’t gone well. A bad haircut, a missed dental appointment, rude Aunt Freida—all provided Mrs. Rosen with opportunities to coat the unhappiness aphoristically.
Remember, Fanny, Good things come in small packages, she added, so if Mr. Nichols calls you a little shrimp today, just smile and don’t let him know he has gotten your goat.
This verbal slathering ticked Fanny off beyond words, even the most cleverly ordered ones.
School was painful.
Not the school part.
The social part, which as every 12-year-old girl knows, is the more important.
Every morning, Fanny looked into her mirror and there saw big teeth and full lips that chapped easily. She hated her lips, so had no desire to brighten them with lipstick as so many other 7th graders did.
Her bangs, cut straight and about ½ inch above her eyebrows, gave her a juvenile look.
Maybe that’s why boys don’t like me.
Her doldrums began to beat like a big old base; first, in a slow and measured cadence, providing a structured rhythm for the up and down strokes of her brush upon her hair. The beat quickened with her heartbeat, as she contemplated going to school this morning.
She took refuge before the bell rang in Mr. Mimms’ room.
Mr. Mimms was her art teacher and to him, every drawing, clay pot, painting or paper mache’ creature was simply gorgeous.
Fanny placed four pieces of origami paper on each desk.
Make sure to give each student four different colors, piped out Mr. Mimms. Swans, though beautiful, are not easy to fold.
Mr. Mimms was a feminine man. He reminded Fanny of her Aunt Gertrude, who lived in New Jersey. Tall and slim, like a fashionably dressed stick figure, Mr. Mimms had a mouth that seemed to be always smiling, his lips turning up at the corners. He had a sweet disposition, like Fanny’s miniature poodle, Pepe. As Mrs. Rosen would have said, Mr. Mimms doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.
Fanny folded her square in half and sealed the crease with each thumb and index finger pulling from the center out. She folded the triangle in half again. In a series of folds and bends, with creases and tucks, she meticulously followed Mr. Mimms’ directions.
Her mind wandered off with the half folded bird that was to become a swan.