On a beautiful Sunday morning, Allison Terenzio Ruiz is sitting down to have tea. Not one to drop a teabag into a mug of hot water, she has laid out an elaborate place setting with the Cinderella soundtrack playing in the background. Just as she pours from a pretty teapot into a dainty cup and saucer, she gets a message that someone needs her.
Like a superhero, she transforms into a fairy princess and appears as if by magic in a rose garden. A mother sits waiting for her, holding her pre-school daughter, Harper. The little girl looks sad and anxious, since her epilepsy medication has just been increased. When she sees “Cinderella,” however, her eyes light up. Cinderella tells Harper that she has a friend just like her, who has a hard time with her medication, too. But she knows Harper is brave and strong. To help her feel better, Cinderella gives her a charm in a golden pouch. Hold it close as you make a wish, she says, before hugging the girl goodbye. Later that day, the mother watches gratefully as Harper blissfully naps, clutching onto her golden pouch.
“A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep,” the Cinderella soundtrack plays, as Allison, still in costume, returns to her tea. As she drinks from a golden teacup, she thinks back to her own childhood, when her grandmother, Lois, sipped from the same cup. The two were a wonderful match and spent a great deal of time together after Allison’s parents divorced. As an only child with a vivid imagination, Allison loved Lois’s great fashion sense, fanciful stories and desire always to have fun. “Let’s go break the rules,” Lois would say, as the two snuck off to have too much candy.
“They had a connection unlike any other,” says Allison’s mother, Carol Meyer. “There was an incredible bond between them.” Carol was a tomboy who tried to get Allison to watch Monday Night Football. Instead, Carol ended up watching it with her dad while Allison and Lois played dress up. From the age of two through high school, they would put on fancy clothes, costume jewelry and hats, even if they were just going grocery shopping. Then they would come home to have elaborate tea parties. “We are quite the characters, aren’t we?” Lois would say to Allison.
Soon after high school, Allison gets married, and her life moves in a different direction. She tries to conform to her husband’s desires on most matters, including a move to Boise, ID so he can pursue a job there. Having grown up in Seattle and earned her M.Ed at NYU, Allison is a big-city girl. Between moving to an unfamiliar, small city and caring for a husband and newborn twin boys, she feels overwhelmed and isolated. She needs her grandmother.
Lois also needs Allison. After her husband dies, she begins suffering from dementia. Allison moves her to Boise so she can take care of her, reversing their roles from her childhood. When Lois's health deteriorates further, she gives Allison all her china and linens, including her tea equipment, before entering a skilled nursing facility. Everything sits in boxes as Allison's marriage breaks up, and she transitions to being a single mom who needs to stay in Boise to share custody of her twins.
She begins pursuing things that always made her happy. Like her mother, an educator who founded the Privett Academy near Seattle, she enjoys working with kids. So she teaches at a pre-school and at Treasure Valley Children's Theater, which was recently chosen by a local Brighton store to be the beneficiary of a fundraising campaign for kids' arts programs. She also resumes acting, something she hasn’t pursued since college.
At an audition at the Boise Little Theater, she waits with a few dozen other hopefuls. Ramiro Ruiz has also come to audition and knows about half the other actors there. While most of them seem relaxed about the process, he sees Allison sitting quietly on a couch, staring straight ahead as though poised for an important job interview. He goes over and says, “You should calm down,” his standard joke to help actors lighten up at auditions. She knows instantly that she likes him, even though he’s not her type.
Born in Cuba, Ramiro grew up in Portland, OR and became a minister in Ketchum, ID. When his marriage ended, he felt he needed a new start and moved to Boise. Also looking for something that would make him happy, he gets involved with community theater. Though no longer a minister, he has a gentle, nurturing spirit.
Both Allison and Ramiro get cast in Fools, a comic fable by Neil Simon. Every performance, his villain character strums a balalaika as he strolls on stage singing to Allison’s heroine character, “Sophia! Time to get proposed to…” She always turns him down.
When the production ends, Allison brings her twin boys, then three years old, to help break down the set. Jake and Bobby take an instant liking to Ramiro. As she sees their relationship blossom, Allison opens herself up to the possibility that they could all live happily ever after.
About a year later, Allison is acting in Rumors, another Neil Simon play, for which Ramiro is an assistant director. On preview night, he pretends to stay home sick. At the curtain call, the director stops the applause and asks the audience to stay in their seats. From off stage, Ramiro starts strumming a balalaika and enters singing “Sophia! Time to get proposed to…” To Allison’s shock, he says, "Allison you're my best friend and the most beautiful woman in the world. Will you marry me?" She is speechless. Miraculously, her Prince Charming has found her.
“I think in order to find love again after a marriage ends, you have to look at yourself first. What do I want? What do I need? Am I even ready for another go at love?” she says. “Ramiro didn't expect anything from me. He put himself out there and just waited for me to realize I couldn't live without him.”
As seems appropriate for a fairy tale, they get married at Disneyland. Mickey and Minnie Mouse attend the wedding and Sleeping Beauty visits Allison the morning after. Besides Jake and Bobby, Allison and Ramiro now also have an adorable eight-month-old son together. Both from broken homes and unsuccessful first marriages, they are determined to have a happy family this time around.
Lois passes away in 2012, a month after Allison and Ramiro's wedding. One day, Allison opens up her boxes of china and linens. Every time she looks through the tea equipment, she hears her grandmother say, “Don’t just display the settings. Have tea parties.” Now as Ramiro encourages her to be the person she is meant to be, she uses them more frequently. “Out came the tea cups and costumes and theatrics,” she says. “It made him happy, because I was happy.”
Besides her pre-school and theater work, Allison starts to offer tea parties and “princess encounters,” hoping to bring a little joy into people’s lives. “I'm sure that some of these kids are going through tough times,” she says. “After a party sometimes I get letters or pictures from children, and the parents will say that their child told everyone at school about meeting me or I just made their little one so happy. That's all I need to hear.”
A visit from a princess superhero can do wonders. After seeing the positive effect she can have on people like little Harper, Allison also plans more visits to hospitals or senior centers to lift people’s spirits. “If I can bring a smile and add a little magic to a day, my work is done,” she says. Or as Cinderella would sing, “Don't let your heart be filled with sorrow, For all you know tomorrow, The dream that you wish will come true.”