It all began on a bright summer’s day. Well, to be honest, it was in Zimbabwe and most days of the year are bright and sunny. I was about six years old. It was the last day of ballet before the main exams and the whole class was nervous. We were tiny and this would be the first ballet exam of our little lives. Judy Bowles, my ballet teacher, was very strict and upright. She had raven black hair and a beautiful face that betrayed the soft gooey centre to her outward school marm exterior.
We were fidgeting and giggling because we were told there was something waiting for us in the main dressing room down the hall. We were to wait for the big girls to finish changing and then come through to find out what the surprise was. Of course, the first thing we thought of was sweets! Yay, she was handing out sweets because we had worked so hard! Whispering, peeking round the corner, we waited in anticipation. At last the long legged dancers, who were probably only teenagers, filed out of the dressing room with big smiles on their faces. As soon as the last one flittered out, we scuttled down the narrow corridor to the warm dressing room. There stood Mrs Bowles in the centre of the thickly carpeted fuchsia pink room with a large tray in her hands. As each child entered, she offered the lucky thing a peek at what was on the tray. They chose something and then skipped off after thanking her. I couldn’t see. The joys of being short! There were so many girls in front of me and I knew there wouldn’t be enough.
My pessimism was never realised as she had made enough for everyone. My turn came and I got to look at the treasure on the tray. It was a collection of handmade animals she had created for each of us! They were so pretty I could only gasp and stare. In a soft voice she coaxed me to choose one. Which one? They were all so beautiful. I could feel the girl behind me pushing for her turn and I had to make a snap decision. The pink pig with a yellow flower painted on her back. That was it! My lucky pig.
In that second I had chosen my lucky charm for the next thirty-four years of my life. That lucky pig has seen more exam rooms, backstage green rooms and offices than any other pig in this world. Her squished up nose, stumpy little feet and curly wurly tail have given me comfort that no hug, no caress could ever match. She was the only creature allowed to accompany me during the most trying times of my puny life.
Roll on thirty years and lucky pig retired to her pride of place, on a special shelf in my bedroom with the few ornaments that survived my nomadic life before settling down. I would fondly gaze at her and feel her luck oozing out onto my family as they faced their daily traumas.
Alas, the fateful day came when I decided to take her down and share her story with my children. They sat mesmerised as I explained her purpose and the powers she possessed. My eldest son watched on, politely interested but a non-believer. I decided to prove her strength.
“Here!” I said, shoving my lucky pig into his hand. “Take her with you for your exam. Put her on the desk and she will bring you luck.”
As in all good tales, I had to add the warning, “Don’t lose her or else I will kill you!!”
He nodded and promised on his life he would return my lucky pig to me at the end of the day. The joys I have had and the memories I hold will never be as sweet or mean as much to the next person. I learnt this the hard way. It took him a couple of days of exams to lose my lucky pig. He claimed she was sitting there one minute and the next, she disappeared, never to be seen again. His woeful story is that he searched for her everywhere, but she had vanished without a trace.
My question to my son was, “Who on earth would want to steal a pig?” We still don’t have the answer.
I hope that wherever she is, the luck she gave me will be passed on to the next person and the next. A kind of pay it forward if you like. The life story of my lucky pig may have ended with me, but it has only begun with her next owner.