Lilly is a princess. She is not a child because she is a princess. Lilly lives in a castle.

Once there were many Lillis and many castles, but usually there is only one Lilly living in one castle.

She is very kind to dogs. She loves dogs and she feeds the dogs.

Lilly always allows things that mommy and daddy forbid. She always manages the things mommy and daddy don’t manage.

And she is the one for whom my three-years-old son threatens to leave when he and I argue.

Here is the story of how Lilly was ‘born’. It happened this summer in the picturesque town of Briançon, in French Alps.

On the first day of our summer vacation, and as my husband was fetching the stroller from our car, Niklas and I witnessed a gorgeous British bride and her bridesmaids heading to the church accompanied by some friends and family. Just a few minutes before, we’ve seen many guests of this wedding near the church as we passed by. All the guests seemed to have travelled here all the way from Great Britain. I was carrying Niklas in my arms when we saw the bride and her friends.

The young women were singing loudly and very well, I must say. They looked like having sprang straight out of a romantic movie into the streets of Briançon. The street we saw them walking was steep and shadowy. They were going down the hill towards us. The descending blond beauty in white was shining and both my son and I were mesmerized by the wonder and the merriness of it all.

I said to Niklas: “Look, what a beautiful bride!”

I saw confusion in his eyes and said: “She is marrying today. And that is why she is dressed like a beautiful princess.”

In the following few days, Niklas was playing and trying to dress as both a bride and a groom and leading me several times to an imaginary altar.

The second part of the story started when my mother-in-law bought him a book about the builder Manny, a French equivalent for Bob the Builder. While translating the book into German she did call Manny Bob. Manny-Bob had a beautiful Kelly to help him with his work. And Manny-Bob had a construction company and his own car with his name on it.

Several days past. We were in our car on the way to the next walk in the mountains. And this is when it happened.

As we passed several sweet looking small town houses, Niklas said: “Here lives my beautiful Lilly.”

I was intrigued. “Who is Lilly?”

“She is my mother and I am married with her.”

“But if you and Lilly are married, then she is probably your wife, isn’t she?”

“No, – , yes.”

“Sweetheart, do you mean Kelly, Manny’s, sorry, Bob’s Kelly?”

“No, Lilly!” And after a pause, “And I have a construction company and my car!”

A few more days later, Niklas went with his father and his grandparents to a castle, situated at the top of the city. I stayed at our vacation home to do some writing.

When they came back, Niklas told me about the castle and that Lilly lived there. They all heard many dogs behind the gates leading to the castle. The gates were locked but Niklas and his entourage could hear that there were several if not many dogs and they all claimed hearing someone giving food to the dogs. Niklas said it was Lilly. That she was kind and loved her dogs.

It is already more than three months since then and Lilly is always there when my son needs her.

When we, his parents, say: “Niklas, you must not do this!” the answer often is: “But Lilly allows this! She is nice!”

She always does what we fail to do. For example, she already managed to get a movie on DVD, which we recently watched in the cinema and which is not on sale yet. Anywhere. Even Nikolaus, one of the German equivalents of Santa Claus, who brings sweets and small gifts on December 6, couldn’t find one, according to mommy. But Lilly could, and she and Niklas watched the movie together.

Lilly never disappoints my son. And she is the source for many stories. Now, when mommy and daddy tell about their colleagues and friends at the dinner table, Niklas can contribute as well. And he tells us about someone who we know nothing about, just like he doesn’t know about some of our colleagues or friends. He tells us about Lilly.

In September, my son had something close to a crush on a girl of four. This is another cute story, but here it is relevant to be mentioned because this crush came and went. Lilly is still here.

Lilly reminds me of my own escapes when I was a child. When I started learning English, I imagined having a friend, or rather an admirer and a husband-to-be, with whom I spoke English. He was English and could not speak any other language than English and he had no name. This most handsome young man, whom I was never able to describe except him being extremely handsome and very kind, was the one with whom I shared all my most secret of secrets.

I am grateful to my son and to Lilly to remind me of the works of my own imagination and what a powerful and wonderful force it is. Without it many things would appear two-dimensional and un-poetic.

I don’t know whether my son will remember Lilly and her story when he grows up. We both might forget this story as I forgot about mine until Lilly was ‘born’.

That is why I wanted to record it and to share it.

Let this story be a sweet reminder to Niklas and to all of us about all the wonderful ways our imagination leads us along.

We often blame our imagination for our fears, but it can also provide help, it can reassure us in our beginnings, make us look ahead with curiosity and excitement, and show us the ways out of the labyrinth of doubts and worries.

Did you have your own Lilly or an English friend when you grew up? What was she, he, they like?

P. S. At the walls of Lilly’s castle:


P. P. S. Niklas the Builder: