by Evelyn Kennedy Jaffe
art by Havi Rojer
Dear Strawberry Queen,
The first time I met you I was about five years old. You towered above me on a beautiful plinth covered with vines, strawberries, and leaves, and you were wearing the most beautiful white dress I had ever seen. Draped across you was a sash proclaiming you the queen.
There was no doubt in my mind that if you were the queen, I was the peasant. My mouth was stained from the strawberries I had been devouring like mad, and my walk was wobbly from my time spinning in the strawberry-shaped teacup ride. Eyes wide, knees muddy.
I wanted to be you, Strawberry Queen—as I got older, some of my friends waited for their annual shot to be honored as the town’s queen, the taster of the strawberry shortcake, the larger-than-life angel floating above the crowd—just out of reach.
I tried hard to be you, Strawberry Queen. I wore a red dress for my prom. I walked in heels. It all fit beautifully, but it felt wrong, like I was wearing someone else’s skin. I saw you year after year. I couldn’t imagine smiling in your dress.
It’s past the point of possible, your highness. I’m too old now, and your shoes are too pointy for me to fill. I’ll remember your glow, but I’ve learned I can’t glow like that.
I’ll dedicate every strawberry-stained kiss to you.