I was six when my mum found me rifling through the airing cupboard in my room. We kept towels and bed linen on the slatted racks, despite the musty smell that lingered inside. Balanced precariously on my desk chair I stretched upwards, tiny hands lost within soft folds of clean laundry. The floor beneath me was littered with duvet covers, Christmas themed table clothes and doilies. I'd finally found what I was searching for - just one last stretch - when the floorboards groaned behind.
'Louise, what do you think you're doing?'
Uh oh. Trouble. There was always a little edge to the way she said my name; an extra emphasis on the L. I spun around with a push and twist of glee. That old chair provided me with hours of room-spinning fun.
'Looking for a pillowcase.' I said, as if it was the kind of thing I did every day. It wasn't.
'Are you going to make your bed?'
Me make beds? I assumed some kind of bed fairy did that while I was at school. I explained the complexity of my problem; a pillowcase was needed to complete my very special outfit. With a glance at the carefully ironed table cloths now in disarray on the floor, mum reached above my head and pulled from one of the stacks without any dislodge. Mums really could do everything. Or maybe not.
'No, no, no!' I said, head shaking. 'I don't want a white one.'
'But brides wear white on their wedding day. Don't you want a white veil?'
I may have married off Barbie with Ken a few times (and Ken with Sindy once the divorced had been finalised) but I never wanted to be a bride. Boys were stupid. Did she not know me at all? She stared at me with an increasingly crinkled brow.
'I need a red one for my cape. You can't fly without a cape!'
At this moment she noticed the rest of my very special outfit on my bed. A bright blue Minnie Mouse t.shirt that I had turned inside out and a pair of red cycling shorts. Beside it a hand-drawn S that I had coloured in, badly, with yellow felt-tip and cut out with kid-friendly scissors that always tore paper rather than cut it. Briefly, mum considered me and flipped through a pile of sheets beyond my grasp. She shook out one of my sister's red bedsheets. I imagined it fluttering in the wind behind me as I soared through the sky and bounced off the clouds. I snatched it from her hands.
With a roll of her eyes, she left me; my behaviour nothing new. I always had a vivid imagination. When I wasn't shouting at my dolls in my makeshift 'classroom', I was entertaining the Queen or pretending to fly on Falkor the luckdragon from The NeverEnding Story.
My very special outfit now complete, I got dressed with a sense of accomplishment. I secured the yellow S to my chest with a couple of strips of Sellotape and sank my feet into red Wellington boots outgrown the previous winter. As my sister tied the sheet around my neck in a double knot, I was so overwhelmed by the excitement that I forgot the pinch of my toes and the skin growing raw at the backs of my heels.
It was cold when I stepped outside. At the top of the garden steps I felt the score of goosebumps, the tug of my cape as it toyed with the wind. Hands on hips, I focused on the large tree by the end fence. That was where my mission would begin.
I dragged a rusty paint-splattered step ladder down to the grass leaving a two line trail of flattened green blades behind me. My hands scrapped the roughened tree bark as I wedged the ladder against the trunk. The trail of ants usually would have stopped me from climbing but I had my cape now; I had to finish this. I had one muddy boot on the step when my mum called from the top of the garden. She was watering potted plants.
'Louise, what do you think you're doing?'
'Climbing the tree.'
I pushed off from the grass and the ladder wobbled. A few trailing ants didn't survive my sudden grasp for the solid trunk and I wiped their corpses down my top. They looked like dirt.
'Why are you climbing the tree?'
'Because birds fly from trees.'
'You're not a bird, Louise. You can't fly.'
'I know I'm not a bird.' I continued to climb.
'Well, you're not Supergirl either.'
'I know that! I'm Superman.'
At the top of the ladder I stretched upwards to a low hanging branch but something tugged and I toppled and tumbled to the ground. Laughter tinkled from every direction and when I opened eyes my sister appeared, all five versions of her head shaking.
'You're no Superman,' she said. 'He wouldn't have got his cape caught in the bottom of the ladder!'
Well. There was always next time.