A year ago, my 4-year-old daughter, Allie, was obsessed with trains.
Now, she clomps around the house in plastic high heels every day, usually wearing a satiny pink skirt and matching top, white gloves and a tiny pink hair clip stuck arbitrarily on top of her head.
Sometimes, she also has wings, a tiara or any number of other accessories, including a purple feather boa, a sparkly handbag and a silver wand.
She calls her father Prince Charming, likes to pretend I'm her servant and is perpetually en route to The Ball.
Fortunately for my sister Katie, Allie entered The Princess Phase just in time to be a flower girl. Last weekend, at a snowy wedding in Cleveland, Allie realized her princess dreams "" and carried on a family tradition that's a bit magical itself.
With nobody planning it, life has worked out so that each of my two sisters got married at the time when one of my two daughters was the perfect age to be a flower girl.
Before the wedding, I asked Allie if she knew what getting married meant. Without hesitation, she said: "You kiss the prince, and then you dance."
Sometimes I don't quite see how princesses fit into Allie's worldview.
We were watching "Frosty the Snowman" the other night. Right from the start, Allie was skeptical about a talking snowman. "It's supposed to have three, not two," she said, referring to the balls of snow making up the head and body. "And he doesn't have a carrot nose or a scarf, so he isn't a real snowman."
Later, we got to the scene that still makes my eyes a little misty: Desperate to get his magic top hat back, the evil magician has just trapped Frosty in a greenhouse. Santa arrives on the scene, only to find Frosty's friend Karen sobbing next to a black hat lying in a puddle on the greenhouse floor.
Allie saw me sniffling and said, "They can just build him again and put the hat on, du-uh!" She was still pondering the blurry line between real and pretend when I tucked her in.
"If I made a snowman," she asked, "it wouldn't be to life "¦ right?"
It's easy to understand the appeal of the Princess World. Put aside, for a moment, the possibility that Allie and the other legions of princesses-in-training have been brainwashed by society and Hollywood and The Walt Disney Company.
Don't we all want to believe in happy endings? Don't we all wish, sometimes, that we lived in a world where good and evil were as clearly defined as they are in fairy tales? As adults, we've seen our share of sad endings, and we know that good doesn't always triumph.
We need the magical moments in life even more than our kids do.
Reality and fantasy merged at the wedding. Allie loved every moment of being a princess. At the hair salon, she sat completely still, feet dangling, while the stylist curled and braided and teased her hair into a glittery up-do.
During the ceremony, she walked slowly and solemnly down the aisle, carefully dropping red rose petals, one by one, from her basket, before abruptly stopping and skipping over to join her big sister and the other bridesmaids.
At the reception, she led the guests in dinging their glasses to make the bride and groom kiss. And then she danced... and danced ... and danced.
When we got back to Oneonta, the first thing Allie wanted to do was put on her favorite princess dress-up outfit. At bedtime, we talked about how much fun the wedding was and what a great job she had done as a flower girl.
"Am I ever going to be it again?" she asked.
It's a hard lesson to learn, at 4: that the magical moments in life are precious and fleeting.
For me, Allie's princess day was full of perfect moments, now filed away to take out and polish on all the other, un-princess-like days.
As a parent, I need the adorable and endearing moments to balance the meltdowns and the messes; all those moments we don't capture in photographs or brag about to the grandparents or mention in the Christmas card letter.
For Allie, being princess for a day was proof that, sometimes, you can live your dreams.
Lisa Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Oneonta. She can be reached at email@example.com.