"A story? Okay, but give me a few moments to get my thoughts into order." she replied to a query from the crowd.
Sylfaen looked around the room and smiled hesitantly. "As most of my favourite stories begin like this, I shall start here also. "
She took a slow breath and began. "Once upon a time, there was a young girl who had something amazingly special in her life. It was so special and yet an everyday sort of thing. She was both amazed this incredibly special thing was in her world but also accepted it's being hers, very easily. She had always had this wonderfully special thing, it had always been there for her.
"First, I should describe the young girl to you. The little girl was a small child, with long, white blonde hair that became paler every day from the rays of the sun shining on it so often. Her hair was perfectly straight, but it was usually such a mess that no one knew that."
Her hand came up to touch her nose, completely unconciously as she continued, "Our little blonde heroine was covered in freckles, again from her love of being outside. She had freckles in big, odd shaped blotches all over her face. Clothes were not a great interest for her, as long as they didn't hamper her having fun playing, so she usually wore shorts and a t-shirt. This meant that she also had light brown freckles on her toes, as well as her legs and arms."
Sylfaen touched the centre of her waist with both forefingers and then drew them around to the centre of her back, highlighting a circle that would have been just above the shorts waistline.
"There were even freckles around her waist, since she didn't like keeping her shirts tucked in."
From the crowd a little voice spoke up. "Didn't her Mama make her wear a hat and sunscreen? To stop cancer and sunburn?"
Sylfaen was a little stunned by the casual way this was said, as such a universally accepted truth that no one would consider taking such a silly risk these days.
"Indeed her Mother did try to do those things, sewing elastic onto hats because our little blonde girl hated the way they would fly off her head when she was sitting on the prow of a boat, facing into the glorious wind. Trying different colours and styles when the little girl complained that the tight hats gave her a headache. Since our heroine spent a lot of time riding around her home town, far away from her Mama, her Mama didn't know that she would take off the hat as soon as it annoyed her."
The little voice from the audience piped up again, this time sounding confused, "So, why didn't she get cancer, then?"
Very gently, Sylfaen smiled in the direction of the voice and replied, "She did. Our Heroine, between the ages of ten and sixteen, had a doctor cut five moles out of her arm and back," pointing near her left shoulder as she explained, "and one of them was a cancer. After that, she wore long sleeved shirts, hats and even the horrible, itchy, painful sunscreen."
Sylfaen smiled again, this time more delightedly. "She found that her freckles faded, too, which made her VERY happy."
The audience murmured and shifted, with a few giggles.
"Now you know our Heroine a bit better, I'll tell you what she had, this amazing thing, something so special and wonderful and always a part of her life. Something that made the sun shinier, the rainfall sound more musical and the fairies seem more real."
Leaning forwards towards the audience, she spoke very clearly and intently.
"Our Heroine had an Older Sister."
Sylfaen stood up very straight and put on a "quite pleased with herself" expression, one that her little blonde heroine may have used all those years ago.
Several of the children in the audience looked disappointed with this revelation, some clapped in agreement and several, who may have been older sisters themselves, sat up a little straighter in unconscious mimicry of Sylfaen.
"Her older sister was the best fun in her whole world. She would play amazing games with her, involve her in every activity she was doing and tell her the most amazing stories. One day, they were playing out in the backyard, on the frame from the ute tray that they used for monkey bars, when her sister acted all twitchy. Our little blonde heroine asked her what was happening. The Older Sister explained that she felt all magical and was just going to run inside for a moment.
"When she came out, the Older Sister said that she wasn't her sister anymore, because her sister had gone to visit Fairyland in the fairy's body and she was a fairy come to visit the human realms.
"This fairy told her amazing stories about what it was like to fly, live in a treehouse and dance around the mushroom rings that the two sisters had sometimes seen in the parks. Our little blonde heroine listened in rapt fascination, both delighted and a little terrified. Would her Older Sister be okay? Would she come back?"
"She mentioned these worries to the Fairy, who swooshed back inside the house and came out again, but with the Older Sister back in her own body. There were ecstatic hugs from our heroine, who then climbed the frame again to hear how Her Very Own Sister had met the Fairy Queen and been dressed in a beautiful gown made of flower petals. What a marvellous day that was."
"This Incredibly Special part of our little blonde's life also spent hours riding their tricycle up and down the driveway, with the teeny little blonde sitting in the passenger seat. Her Older Sister would make up stories about their ride, how they were passing the store and they had to wave to everyone inside. Next would be a stop and wait while the cows crossed the road..."
Another voice from the crowd called out, "Why were there cows on the road? Shouldn't they be in their farms?" Several more audience members expressed their curiosity as well, having grown up in a city where children were taken to special hobby farms to meet farm animals and understand where milk and eggs really come from.
Sylfaen turned and used the chalkboard this time, drawing a dirt road with large paddocks fenced off on either side of the road. She drew some barely recognisable cows in the paddocks, almost, but not quite, stick figures. Pointing at these, she spoke. "These are supposed to be cows. Let's just believe that and move on. Where are they now?"
"In the big squares!" Called out one helpful child.
With a grin, Sylfaen responded, "Yes! And the squares are supposed to be paddocks. The cows eat the grass. After a few days, what do you think happens to the grass?" She waited.
The 40 or so small children looked at her blankly. A small boy whispered in the ear of the girl next to him and she giggled. Sylfaen asked them, "Please share your funny with the class." The girl went bright red and shook her head and the boy giggled some more. Sylfaen waited. Silently. The boy nudged the blushing girl and she glared at him.
Ever so quietly, the boy said, almost trying not to be heard, "It turns into poo!" and then couldn't hold in his giggles.
Sylfaen smiled. Her eyes met the cheeky boy's and she said, "Yes, it does. Not the answer I was hoping for, but still correct." Her eyes looked around the bright faces of giggling children. "Any other ideas?" she asked, and visibly crossed her fingers with a hopeful expression. "About the grass?"
From the corner, a confident voice called out, "The grass gets really short, like it's been mown".
"Spot on!" With a warm smile, she turned to the board and drew tiny lines to show short grass. Then she erased the cows and re drew them with the necks reaching towards the other paddock with the long grass.
"So, the Farmer wants his cows to be happy and well fed and opens the gate to let them go across to his other paddock. When this happens, all the people in cars have to wait, because cows don't understand road rules. They wait, the cows get across and fed and little girls on tricycles get to make Mooing sounds and pretend they are the farmer driving his cattle across the road or the people in the cars waiting."
Sylfaen straightened up again, and made an odd gesture, something like a cat who was using a paw to clean it's face. "Now, our little blonde heroine was very fond of her incredible Older Sister and didn't like it when she went to her friends houses to play, without her. So, her very kind Older Sister would take her along to play with her friends as well.
"Sometimes, they would get her to pretend to be a cat. Her Older Sister would bring her a bowl of milk to lap up like a cat and all the girls called her "Kitty". When they played pretend games, her Older Sister would make sure that there was some role for Kitty, whether it was crawling around and pretend climbing curtains, the bigger girls lifting her up high while she made the climbing moves or being a Princess Kitty that had these four totally Far-Out girls to serenade her with their latest chart sucesses."
In a quieter voice, Sylfaen continued, "And every night, in the bedroom they shared, the Older Sister would watch over the little blonde as she fell asleep, to make sure she was safe."
"So, that was the Amazingly Special part of our little blonde girl's life. Fun, magic, love and safety, all rolled into one Older Sister." Sylfaen looked around the students in her daughter's class, all sitting cross legged on the carpet and looking at her. The teacher had come back in and the pressure was off to keep these children entertained in her absence. All those bright eyes watching her with smiles was pretty wonderful and she sighed in relief that she'd managed to tell them a story they liked.
Her daughter, with her straight dark blonde hair, that hats covered during any sunlight, looked up at her and said, "It was you, Mama, the little girl?"
She nodded at her own little heroine, who bounced with glee at guessing correctly and said, "Can we visit Aunty Joy soon, Mama? Can I tell her your story?"
"I think she'd like that, Princess."