“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Leslie looked up from her coloring book in shock. “I can do that? Can I be more than one thing?”
Grandma smiled. “Of course dear. You can be anything you want to be.”
Wow. Leslie felt overwhelmed with the possibilities. She’d always wanted to fly, so part of the time she’d have to spend as a bird. But which one? Owls could stay up all night, but swans were so pretty, and hummingbirds could fly so fast.
Breathing underwater would be neat. She could explore the bottom of the ocean if she was a shark or a dolphin. If she was an octopus, she’d have arms. Lots of arms. Maybe she could gather up treasure from a sunken ship and buy her own house. She’d buy the yellow house next door, so she wouldn’t have to walk too far to go to bed after Mom made dinner.
Cheetahs could run fast. She’d win all the races if she was a cheetah. Being an elephant would be handy in a water fight. Penguins were always dressed up and didn’t have to wear anything scratchy.
Could she be more than one thing at a time? How often could she change? Did everyone else change into what they wanted when they grew up? Why didn’t they tell her sooner?
“So, what would you like to be?” Grandma asked again. “Have you thought of something?”
Leslie nodded. “A bird so I can fly and an octopus. I’m not sure what else. How many can I be?”
“A bird and an octopus?” Grandma laughed. “I’m afraid that you can’t be either one.”
“So what are my choices?” Leslie asked. “Are unicorns on the list? I think they can do magic, and that would be pretty neat.”
Grandma shook her head. “No animals. You’ll have to stay a person like the rest of us. I was asking what job you want to do when you grow up.”
Leslie stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Grandma, you asked me what I wanted to be, not what I wanted to do. It’s not the same thing.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I should have spoken more clearly.” Grandma patted the empty space on the couch next to her. “Will you come sit by me and tell me what job you’d like to do when you grow up?”
Leslie climbed up on the couch and snuggled next to Grandma. She thought for a moment. “Maybe I could be a fairy, because they have magic and can fly. Or I could be a princess. I like dressing up and tea parties. Being a superhero would be nice. They have magic powers, too. But they can only do some magic things, like flying and seeing through walls. Fairies can do lots of magic things and can dress up in twirly dresses too, so I think being a fairy would be best.”
“You have to be born a fairy or a princess or a superhero. Just like you have to be born a fish to be a fish, or a bird to be a bird.” Grandma smoothed Leslie’s hair and smiled. “Isn’t there something you’ve always wanted to do?”
“I wanted to eat cake for breakfast this morning.” Leslie thought for a moment. “And I want to do magic and fly.”
“What would you do with magic?” Grandma asked.
“I would help people. And I would magic cake on everyone’s plate, even at breakfast. If someone was sick, I would magic them better. And if I wanted my dress to be a different color, I would change it. I could change it to rainbow colors if I wanted. And if someone wanted to be a unicorn, I would change them into a unicorn, but only for a day, because unicorns don’t have hands, so it’s hard for them to color in their coloring books.” Leslie remembered that she hadn’t finished coloring and slipped off the couch and started coloring again.
“If you want to help sick people, you could be a doctor or a nurse,” Grandma said.
“Maybe.” Leslie kept coloring.
“If you like to color, maybe you could be an artist.”
“Maybe.” Leslie didn’t look up.
“If you like pretty dresses, maybe you could be a seamstress or a fashion designer.”
“Maybe.” Leslie finished coloring and turned the page. It was a picture of a penguin, but her black crayon was lost. She could color it a different color, but she didn’t want to. Leslie closed the book.
“So what do you want to do when you grow up?”
“I think that when I grow up, I will be Leslie. I’ll figure the rest out later,” Leslie said. She put the lid on the crayons and stood up.
“I think that’s a great plan,” Grandma said. “After you put away your crayons, would you like to have a tea party?”
“Of course I would. All little girls named Leslie who live in this house love to have tea parties. Especially if there’s cake.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Grandma said.
There was cake at the tea party.