Lotte sat in front of her vanity mirror and admired how her new hair comb pulled her hair back so well, revealing her forehead and bright brown eyes. Then she arranged the gold bows to be the same length on either side of her head. Now for earrings. In her jewelry box were the pearl earrings, a Christmas present from her parents. And gold earrings, a birthday present from her grandparents when she turned 10.
“Pearls,” she thought and quickly attached one to each ear. Then she stood and walked to her wardrobe. Opening the door, she saw it immediately. The sheen of the coat glistened in the morning sunlight, streaming into her room from the window. She reached out and ran her fingers across the fur collar, so soft like the barn cat’s kittens. As she slid her arms into each arm, she instantly felt like a real grownup. Turning, she walked across the room, stepping slowly with toes pointed. As she walked, she felt her shoulders shift and it became more of a strut across her bedroom floor and out the door.
Just last week, she was just Lotte, the youngest of Mr. and Mrs. Hansen’s 3 daughters. As youngest, she didn’t have many demands. Mostly, she played outside and got dirty. Her only chore was to help feed the chickens and put milk out for the barn cats. Her older sisters instead, sat inside, making lace and playing the lute and reading books. Then Aunt Maud arrived for a visit. And she had a big box with her – only one and it was for Lotte. “I feel awful that I missed giving this to you on your birthday, Lotte. With all that was going on, I forgot. Can I celebrate your birthday today, a few months late?”
Lotte immediately thought back to her birthday, three months ago. She recalls a cake the kitchen maid had made. Yet no one else made a big deal on her day. Understandably, all were preoccupied with her sick mother. In fact, it was that very day that the doctor told them there was nothing more he could do. Lotte recalls how she spent the day praying so hard. She also remembers feeling a little selfish about her prayer, “Please don’t take her today…it is my 11th birthday.” Her prayer was answered. Her mother died, not that day, but the next. Of course, no one took time to celebrate her birthday and Lotte didn’t complain. Now here was her Aunt, her mother’s oldest sister. She traveled by barge and then carriage from Rotterdam to Delft with a belated birthday present just for her. “Can I open it now?”
“Of course.” Lotte slowly removed the ribbon and bow and lifted the lid. Inside was a coat, unlike any Lotte had every worn before. It reminded her of a similar coat her mother and her older sister’s wore in the winter when they attended grown-up parties. The collar was lined in white fir with golden spots. And each arm had more fur around the edge. Lotte pulled it out of the box and tried it on. It was way too big but she didn’t care. And her aunt didn’t laugh or comment about the size. She just smiled at her. Lotte knew she would grow into it with time and wearing it reminded her of her beautiful mother, attending parties with father. Walking elegantly out the door, pointing her toes and stepping up into the carriage. The fur coat of a princess and now, thanks to Aunt Maud, she had one too.
As Lotte entered the study today, she sat down at the desk by the window, dipped the feather quill into the inkwell and started writing. Dear Aunt Maud.
Once her thank you note was written, she sat on the lounge chair, opened a book and read. Holding the book in one hand, she stroked the fur of her new coat with the other. Nothing would replace having her mother sit and read to her but somehow sitting in her new coat made it feel bearable today.
Story inspired by A Lady Writing (1665) Johannes Vermeer
Thanks to feedback from my writing club, I researched names HERE and HERE to make it sound more Dutch! Also, I highly recommend visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to see the visiting Vermeer exhibit. It closes January 21, 2018. I visiting over Winter Break and created this story based on one his painting I saw on display.