I always assumed that hibernation took a lot of advanced planning. I guess that’s why I never tried it before now.  It was too much work.  I’d seen squirrels gathering acorns for months on end just to get ready for the big event. I’d heard that bears worked tirelessly to double their body fat and wandered hither and yon to find the cave that was just right for their epic winter slumber.  And these animals had it in their blood. It was part of their genetic plan – “You will hibernate”. I wasn’t even sure a human could pull it off.  How could a person possibly stay inside for all those months, deprived of light, and breeze, and all other natural elements that make a human feel…human. I figured it must take stamina beyond all stamina and a will made of steel and Styrofoam and Hostess Twinkies and other substances built to last throughout all time and space.

 

But then, out of nowhere, I did it. I didn’t even plan a thing. I hibernated by accident. As a matter of fact I didn’t even realize it was happening at first.

 

I think it all started the day of the first big snow. Somehow despite the downpour I just assumed I could pull off my usual routine. “What’s our adventure for today?” Sage asked when we woke that morning. “We’ll hit the hill for some sledding, down some hot chocolate, build a snow fort, paint with icicles, and the maybe zoom down the driveway using these cookie sheets as skis.” I really was embracing the turn in weather. It was going to be epic.

 

Even when I discovered that I did not own a pair of gloves, or own a car that would agree to drive through snow, I said, “No worries, my hands will freeze, we will walk. We will not be deterred.” And even when I discovered that my daughter did not have legs long enough to actually walk through a foot of snow or a sled sturdy enough to escort her through the very substance that it was invented to slide upon I still ventured forth. “We will make a snowman,” I said, forgetting that one cannot sculpt snow without gloves. “We will look for tracks,” I offered, ignoring the fact that no animal in his right mind would be out in this terrible weather. “We will have a snowball fight,” I said, forgetting that a three-year-old who has been raised by pacifist parents would be confused and traumatized when hit in the face by a piece of ice thrown by her mother. “We will go back home and make hot chocolate,” I said. “Yay,” sniffed my daughter.

 

And so we went back inside. And it was nice. It was warm. My lack of protective clothing was no longer an issue. I felt prepared in this place.  I knew how to navigate the five rooms of my apartment. I could make this work. Maybe the great outdoors was overrated anyway.

 

The next morning I felt guilty. Maybe I should try again. After all, I wanted my daughter to grow up loving the elements. But the driveway was not plowed, and the snowsuit was still wet from the day before, and my daughter begged not to go out. And that was really the excuse I needed to call it quits on the snow. Sure I wanted to raise a hearty kid but maybe I could start that project next year. Maybe this year I could gently expose her…like maybe from the comfort of the couch. “Let’s bring the snow in here,” I declared and leaned out the window with a soup ladle. I caught a few flakes, we studied them, we watched them melt. My daughter was truly wowed. There, no more guilt, she’d had an up close look at some snow. I was off the hook.

 

The next day, when the snow continued to fall I didn’t even make a move for my winter coat. I reached my hand out the window, ripped off some icicles and we dipped them in jell-o powder as we sat under a blanket in bed. “Isn’t winter wonderful!” I cooed as we licked off the mounds of pink sugar.

 

I was enjoying this whole indoor winter thing. The next day I went to the store and bought two months worth of supplies. A few days later I managed to stay in my pajamas all day. “I’m good at this,” I thought to myself. “I bet I could pull this off tomorrow too.” And I did. I did it that next day, and the day after that, and the day after that too.

 

My next move was to stop showering; after all it is hard to shower when you refuse to take off your pajamas. I grew a beard – or at least that little extra facial hair that some women of Eastern European descent get when they loose the will to pluck. My hair got frizzy; almost bear-like. I began getting most of my exercise walking back and forth between the kitchen and the bed. Sleep, eat, sleep eat, became my inner monologue.

 

My daughter went out, of course. My husband took her on all sorts of adventures; and when she was home I entertained the hell out of her. We put on plays, made movies, did every craft ever invented, read picture books till my throat ran dry, made up songs, took imaginary vacations. But somewhere in the back of my mind, even in my most engaged moments there was that little voice chanting “sleep more, eat more.”

 

At night, after she’d go to bed, I’d just kind of walk around grunting.

“How was your day?” my husband would ask.

“Ummmm, huh,” I’d say “are you talking about yesterday, or the day before that, or that one day from last week? They all seem so similar…is it getting dark in here?”

“Yes honey, it’s night.”

“Huh, where am I? Is it spring yet? What’s that smell? Is that me? Do we have any meat in the house, I’m hungry!.”

“It’s okay honey, go back to bed. You’re just confused.”

 

And so I shuffled about. I ignored the windows all together now. I could hear the plows grinding down the street. I just assumed the snow was probably up to the roof by now.

 

But then out of nowhere, I woke one day to the sound of a bird. I thought it was a car alarm at first, but when I listened harder I found that the sound was more gentle, far more optimistic. I stumbled over to the window… I saw drops of water trickling down the glass.  It was the icicles… they were melting.  And that’s when I looked down at my matted slippers, at my hairy legs, at my ragged unwashed pajamas. It was a terrifying sight. “Quick” I shrieked, “Someone start the shower.” (I had forgotten how). I washed, I tweezed, I shaved, I even applied lotion. I dusted off a pair of daytime clothing.

“You look stunning,” said my husband, as I emerged wearing a pair of jeans and a thermal top.

My daughter was befuddled. “Where’s your uniform?” she asked.

“That wasn’t a uniform,” I corrected. “Those were just mommy’s pajamas.”

 

I cried on my way out the door. I was simply overcome. The possibilities were endless. The feeling of sun on my pasty white skin was almost orgasmic. As Sage and I walked off the front porch and into the slush each step felt like a revelation. I moved like Neil Armstrong on the moon. If I had had a flag I would have planted it right there on the front lawn, just to mark the occasion. If I had had a microphone I would have made a speech, “Hello world, I am back from my hibernation. It was a terrible mistake. People are not meant to disappear when the going gets tough. I will not let it happen again.”  But I did not have a flag or a microphone; I planted no memorabilia, I gave no speeches.  I simply took my daughter’s hand, pointed in the direction of the nearest park and shouted, “LET”S GO!”

 

She bound into the living room sporting a mischievous smile; one brow arched up, the other curved down towards her cheek pressing her eye into a squint, I knew this look. The last time I saw it I had to pry a plastic cat out from under her tongue.

“Open your mouth,” I said, glancing up from the computer. I held out my hand. She protested for a brief moment, wiggling her backside like a duck after a morning swim.

“Open it,” I persisted.

She brought her nose to mine and dropped her jaw. I got a sudden whiff of latex. “Balloon.” I said. “Give me the balloon”

 

She sighed in disappointment and released the choking hazard, “But, Curious George eats balloons,” she moaned in protest. I slid back on the couch so she could take in my full frame- arms crossed, shoulders pulled back. I wanted her to see that I was serious. “But Curious George can not choke like you can. Curious George cannot accidentally block his airways and end up in the emergency room. Curious George is not real.”

 

My daughter reared back. Her eyes grew narrow and she scanned my face as if counting and re-counting each freckle and line. After several silent seconds she whispered, “Mommy are you real?”

 

Now my jaw dropped. “I’m real. Of course I’m real.”

 

I took her arms and brought her to my side on the couch. “I am real, and daddy is real, and you are real, and all the people you love are real. We’re all real.”

 

 

“Ok” she said flashing me a side-glance and sliding off the cushion. “Let’s dance”

 

I turned on They Might Be Giants and we jumped to a song about the elements. The moment quickly fell into the background and her brief existential crisis gave way to a game of chase and a grilled cheese sandwich.

 

But a few days later I founder her lying in bed staring up at the ceiling. “Sage” I said, “Is something the matter?”

“I’m worried,” she explained rocking her head against her pillow.

“What are you worried about?” I probed.

“Well…I can’t see my eyes. I look and I look and I can’t see my eyes.”

“No one can see their own eyes.” I explained.

“But I can see your eyes. Where are mine?” she persisted.

“That’s just it.” I said, “We can all see each others eyes. But we can’t see our own. Not unless we look in the mirror.”

 

“Mommy.” She stated as if she was about to inform me of something I did not know. “If you could turn my head all the way around I could see them. If you could take my head off and put it on in the back, I think I could see my eyes.”

 

“But I can’t… your head is attached. I can’t take it off, not ever.”

 

She pressed her hands against her forehead and pushed with all her might. She began to cry, “Why can’t I take my head off….why?”

 

I rocked her. I explained that it would hurt too much, that we all need our heads to breathe, and eat, and live. Eventually she calmed down and we read a story. After ten minutes her focus was back on puppets and plastic animals and blocks. Another existential crisis had passed.

 

But then four days later we were at the pool. We’d just gotten dressed after a swim and were watching the grownups paddle up and down the lane lines. Sage followed their movements with great interest. “Wow,” she remarked. Then she looked down at her own frame. “Mommy, if I pull off my fingernail will all the beads come out of my body?”

 

I tried to respond, like I had to all her other deep questions, but somehow this one launched me into a memory from my own childhood. I was sitting between my parents on the couch when all of a sudden it occurred to me that maybe they were robots, maybe they weren’t made of the same stuff that I was. Maybe they were made of metal, or clay, or beads…maybe I was the only one in the whole universe who had feelings and thoughts, maybe I was the only real human on earth.

 

I had to find out. It couldn’t wait. I kicked my mom in the leg.

“Ouch Bec.”

I pressed my elbow into my dad’s side.

“Sweetie, that hurts.”

 

I had my confirmation. They were humans just like me. They felt things like I did. I was not alone.

 

But somehow, in that moment, I felt lonelier than ever.  If they were real that meant they had thoughts. Thoughts I would never know. And if my parents had thoughts, that probably meant that everyone else had thoughts too – my teachers, the mailman, the woman in the checkout lane at the grocery store…and they were walking around thinking their thoughts…all the time.

 

And I would never know what they were thinking. Not really anyway. And they would never really know my thoughts either.

 

At the time, that realization was absolutely devastating.

 

When I shook off the memory and returned to the present moment my daughter had moved on from her worries about the human body. She had spotted some friends and was eagerly trying to wiggle free from my arms. I let her go and marked each prancing step as she disappeared down the hall. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by that same sadness I had had as a child.

 

Lately my daughter was having so many revelations, she was making so many mind-blowing discoveries. She was asking deep questions.   She was hungry for answers. And though she was sharing so much of her inner monologue with me I’d never know it all. I’d never get to hear her thoughts like she does. I’d never be able to climb inside her head.

 

That space was hers alone.

 

As she played with her friends a few feet away from where I stood I felt like I was watching her from atop a mountain or across an ocean.  She danced around a bench, she chased her buddies, she laughed. Then all at once she paused and looked up, her eyes went wide, one corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly.  I think she may have noticed something small and interesting on the ceiling.

 

I’ll never know.

 

It was stunning and heartbreaking all at once.

 

I had always wondered why so many babies were born in the summer. Out of all the months in a year, who would look at a calendar and say, “Hey, you know when I want to be nine months pregnant? August! I can’t wait to tote around forty extra pounds in ninety-degree weather.  And just think how stellar my swollen ankles will look in shorts!”

 

It’s pure insanity.

 

But two weeks ago, during a local costume parade, I connected the dots. It’s Halloween.  Now I know what you’re thinking…”Oh it’s all the girls running around dressed as slutty nurses, and slutty cats… slutty snowmen. Slutty cereal boxes.” But that’s not it. That’s not the reason why so many people procreate at the end of October thus forcing them to give birth during the sweltering heat of the summer months.

 

It’s the children.

 

It’s the eager and innocent faces peeking out from over-stuffed cow suits. It’s the toddlers tripping on their monkey tails. It’s the infants attempting to grip bottles with their synthetic lobster claws. It’s unbearably cute.

 

I am willing to put money on the fact that when it comes to Halloween, my kid alone could have sent a lifetime baby hater running to the sperm bank.

 

For starters, she was dressed as a purple and brown kangaroo-dog. I don’t know if you’ve been to the zoo or the Outback lately, but that’s not a real thing. It’s an animal crafted by the sheer brilliance and creativity of a two-and-a-half year old who wants to be a dog but also wants to have a pouch that will require her parents to purchase her a little stuffed animal to put in the pouch- is that cute or what?

 

On top of that, she requested that we host a Halloween party (despite having no idea what Halloween was) and spent the morning making decorations for the party- pumpkins with upside down mouths and ghosts with six eyes- astonishingly cute.

 

Then when her friends arrived she led them onto the bed and orchestrated the most epic bed jumping rumpus ever. Kids jumping on the bed are cute even when they’re not wearing costumes, but just imagine a little astronaut, a fairy, a pirate, a pumpkin, and a kangaroo-dog all giggling and bouncing about. I almost puked it was so cute.

 

But none of that compared the cuteness of the actual trick-or-treating. That shit was so cute I’m pretty sure that I died at least three times of heartbreak all in the course of walking one neighborhood block. When the costumed crew headed out none of them knew what to expect. At two-and-a-half, most of the girls had worn costumes before but had never been exposed to the costume/candy equation.   When we came to the first door my daughter wrapped herself around my ankle and looked up at me like, “Umm…Mom? I don’t think we know the people who live here. I may be dressed as a kangaroo-dog but that doesn’t mean I have special powers. If some dude comes to the door with an axe we’re toast, despite my costume.”

But when a friendly face emerged holding a basket of candy and inviting her to “take a handful” her eyes grew as wide as melons and her mouth fell agape.” Is this really happening?” I could hear her thinking. “Has this always been the case? All these past two years could I have been knocking on doors and getting candy? Why did no one tell me!” By the second door Sage and her crew of toddling buddies were like professional door-to-door salesmen. “Trick-or-treat,” they cooed in chorus smiling like cherubs and posing so their costumes looked “just so”. These kids were so cute people were dumping fistfuls of candy into their little plastic pumpkins and then running into their homes to find other treats to give. “Here have my cat too, oh here’s a fifty, here’s the keys to my car, the deed to my house…take it all.”

 

Everyone was left babbling and helpless. The costumes, the excited eyes, the giddy laughs over miniature snickers, the wild shrieking of a child who’s out with her friends past dark for the first time ever; it’s all just amazing.

 

It makes you feel like everything is new and alive, like it’s all just beginning. It makes you remember magic. It makes you think of your own childhood and how it felt to play outside all day and then return home to a warm bath and a perfect chapter book. It makes you think of campfires and flying a kite and road trips. It makes you think of all the fun things that lie ahead, of all the things you want to do and be. It makes you certain that everything will work out and that children are the answer to everything- ending war, eradicating poverty…everything.

 

It makes you want to get knocked up even if it means…

 

babies in August.

 

It was time. It had gotten out of hand.  She’d grown dependent. It started to trump everything; it was on her mind at bedtime and first thing in the morning. Sometimes in the night she’d wake and call out for it. “I need it,” she’d shout. “I NEED IT!” There was desperation in her voice. It was scary.

 

The pacifier had to go.

 

My husband and I decided to stage an intervention, “What if she’s sixteen and still sucking it? What if for her sixteenth birthday instead of asking for a car she asks for a diamond-studded binky? And her teeth…her poor teeth! It is undoubtedly doing damage by the minute. But worst of all is the fact that we spend seventy-five percent of our day looking for the damn thing. Just think of all the free time we’d have if we weren’t constantly on all fours searching for the pacifier.”

 

We were agreed. We would break her of the habit before Thanksgiving.

 

We just needed a plan, a way to extricate the paci without scarring our dear daughter who had come to love it so much.  We Googled “paci intervention”, we checked the papers for “binki quitting support groups”. Nothing came up. It was looking bleak. Then one day as I was pulling out the car seat and lifting up the floor mats in hopes of locating a lost Nuk, I had an epiphany. The pacifier elimination plan came to me all at once, it was like a dream.

 

It was flawless! Through a delicate mix of self-empowerment and bribery we’d rid her of the binky in no time.

 

The following day, after a particularly frustrating paci search that ended in tears (my tears) we began to implement the plan.

“Gosh”, we mused right before bed, “did you know that Nola, and Jo, and Abigail have all given up their pacifiers. That’s a pretty big kid thing to do.”

“Yeah,” she agreed.

“Do you think it was hard? Do you think they miss it?” We asked.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Well, some day I bet you’ll be ready to give up your paci too. You’ll really be a big kid then.”

“Yeah,” she said, “but I’m not ready yet.”

 

So we backed off. We were going for the win, to defeat the all-powerful paci we had to be patient.

 

We continued to celebrate Sage’s paci-less friends on a daily basis. It became a ritual. “Tell me again who has no pacis,” our daughter would ask every night before bed.

 

Then, after a few weeks, after a particularly brutal paci search that led to us upturning our mattress and accidentally breaking a coffee mug, we began to raise the stakes.

“You know,” we said. “It will be a really special thing when you give up your paci.”

“Do you think you’d like to pick out a treat when it happens; like a toy that will always remind you of the occasion?”

“Oh yes!” she nodded eagerly, “but I’m not ready yet.”

We kept our cool, we did not push…days passed. We watched our daughter for signs of readiness. We presented her with a Toys R Us catalog and she identified a little panda family that she decided would be the toy of choice on that big no paci day.

“But I’m not ready yet,” she said, clutching the catalog.

 

We continued to wait patiently.

 

But one night a few weeks later, all the pacifiers went missing- really and truly missing. We searched on our hands and knees. We called to them. We pulled cushions off every piece of furniture in the house. It was like the Universe was conspiring to expedite our plan.

As we lay on the floor our heads deep under the living room couch, I wriggled towards my husband until we were nose to nose.

“If I spend one more minute looking for a fucking pacifier I m going to lose it.” I whispered.

“Me too!” he hissed. “Let’s go for it now. Let’s take the leap.”

We emerged from the floor, picked the cobwebs out of our hair, took a deep breath, and braced ourselves for the worst.

“You know,” we said. “It seems like all the pacifiers are gone. Maybe it’s time for no more pacis. Maybe tomorrow we can go get those pandas.”

“Okay,” she said, like it was absolutely nothing, like the pacifier was as insignificant as a sock.

 

Just like that the pacis were out of our life.

 

My husband and I walked around aimlessly that night. It felt so strange to not spend the evening buried under the furniture searching for rubber soothing devices.

 

“What should we do with our free time?” I asked.

 

“I don’t know…read books maybe, watch a movie, invent something. What DO people do with their free time?”

It felt weird.

“Maybe we should crawl around on all fours and stick our heads under things just for old times sake. Hey I know, let’s have a scavenger hunt.” I suggested.

 

That night we slept like kings.  With no midnight searches, no desperate calls when it fell out of our daughter’s mouth. We got twice as much sleep.

 

It was bliss.

 

The next morning we all woke full of energy and headed to the toy store to collect the panda prize.

 

Just like I had seen it play out in my mind, our daughter rushed to the little fur family cooing, “I don’t have a paci because I am a big girl. I have pandas instead.” It was all going so well. My husband and I exchanged a high five. We were so excited by our success that we even offered to buy our daughter the miniature twin baby pandas that went along with the panda family that she had chosen. One of the twins had his very own miniature pacifier. It seemed so symbolic, it seemed so right.

 

We left the store all aglow.

 

But later that afternoon as Sage was playing with the panda babies we heard tears coming from the living room.

 

We rushed to the scene and found our daughter in hysterics. “The panda paci…” she moaned. “The panda paci is gone. It’s lost.”

 

My mouth dropped to the basement, I went numb, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought to myself. “How could we have let this happen? Of all the millions of no paci prizes that we could have awarded to our daughter, we went and replaced her pacifier, with another pacifier.”

 

But this one was microscopic! It was smaller than a raisin, smaller than the head of a nail, smaller than the ear buds for an ipod nano!   It was practically invisible. It could easily get swallowed by a dust bunny and never be seen again. And there was only one. We couldn’t pull off the late night run to Walgreen’s to get more. This paci was irreplaceable.

 

We were doomed.

 

“Whose fucking idea was this?” I hissed at my husband. “It’s like we cured an addiction to caffeinated soda by replacing it with an addiction to single malt scotch.”

 

So now we’re right back where we started, crawling along the baseboards, pulling up cushions, desperately searching for that paci. It’s just that now we’ve got to use a magnifying glass. Someday we’ll break her of the pandas and this time we’ll replace the fix with something huge, something with a tracking device- like a giant on home arrest or a satellite.  Someday. But for now…. she’s “not ready yet.”

 

I’m tired. I’m so tired I feel like I’ve been stuffed inside a zip lock bag full of Jello and then hurled across the sky. According to clocks and all other time telling devices I no longer go to bed during the actual night. The AM signal has made its appearance hours before I’m even ready to consider being in a horizontal position.

Work has kept me doing all manner of crazy things into the wee hours of the morning- writing musical numbers to be performed by inanimate objects, building stets out of construction paper, operating Popsicle stick puppets from underneath a table in a basement. Last night, at two a.m., while the rest of the eastern seaboard was sleeping I was making an inflatable blimp out of a tube sock, a plastic bag, and a bicycle pump (it’s important work…somebody has to do it).

I’ve pulled all-nighters followed by half-nighters and half-nighters that lead into no-nighters (there are just no catchy phrases to sum up how very little rest I am getting).

I imagine this is what it’s like to go on a vision quest or some other spiritual journey where you deprive yourself of sleep for several months and then right when you think you are going to break beyond repair you start hallucinating and meet your spirit animal.  The hallucinations haven’t started yet but if they do begin, and I do indeed meet my spirit animal, I am fairly certain that it will tell me to get some fucking sleep.

Before having a child I would have been able to take this advice. I would have followed any sleepless night with at least three days of doing nothing but lying in bed and rousing only to go to the bathroom or make myself a toaster waffle. But now that there is a little person expecting me to be up with the sun, a day of rest is simply out of the question. I can’t just tell my two-and a-half –year-old, “Hey Mommy’s going to head to bed for the next eleven hours. Here’s how you open the fridge and operate the oven, here’s how you change your own diapers, here are the keys to the car, sing-a-long starts at ten, don’t be late. I’ll just be here in my room with this do not disturb sign on the door. You’re cool right? I’ll see you at dinner.”

It just doesn’t work like that. I can’t even pee with the door closed let alone disappear to take a nap.

So I’ve had to get creative. I’ve had to cut corners… I’m not proud of it, but at the moment it’s the best I can do.

When my daughter wants to play pretend I suggest that we pretend to be babies, “I’ll be an itty bitty baby,” I volunteer. “Did you know that itty bitty babies just lie in bed and sleep and cry? They can’t walk or anything… just watch, it goes something like this.” And then I curl up and attempt to drift off. “Whaaaa!” I cry out every few minutes just so she doesn’t think I’ve stopped playing the game.

Today I suggest we pretend the bathtub was an airplane. “You be the pilot,” I said, and then I sat behind her and rested my head against the faucet while she steered us through the clouds. I was actually managing to get some great rest until she requested that all passengers on the bathtub plane sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” over and over again.

At mealtime, I opt for something that requires nothing more than reheating or calling someone on the phone and saying, “I’d like delivery please”. At bedtime I suggest that my daughter read a story to me. When she naps, I nap, and when she wakes after only twenty minutes I suggest we play a highly competitive game called “pretend nap”.

“See if you can make me think that you are actually sleeping,” I say.  “I’ll play too. Whoever can pretend nap for the longest wins! I’m very good at this game so you are going to have to be very convincing to beat me….”

It’s really shameful to think of all the ways I’ve attempted to avoid our usual boisterous routine. When she asks for dance music so that we can “rock out” I put on a CD that involves a single wooden flute or a lone Monk chanting “Om.”

“Oops,” I say, “wrong CD. But isn’t this music nice. It might not be the best for dancing but do you know what this song is really good for? This song is great for sitting on the floor and staring up at the ceiling. Doesn’t that sound like fun!”

Yesterday at the playground I asked her to push ME on the swing. It was going so well until the force of my weight knocked her into the sand. At one point she was hunting for acorns and I curled up on an empty slide, “Excuse me miss…” I heard a woman say just as I was beginning to relax, “My son would like to use that slide.”  I made up some embarrassed lie, “Heee, heee, I was just playing hide-and-seek with my daughter…. guess I picked the wrong spot.”

I’m pretty sure she thought I was drunk.

Soon I’ll be back in the game. I’ll be energetically chasing my two-and-a-half year old through fields, playing the bongo drums with my feet and hula-hooping with a stuffed monkey taped to my head (you know. The usual parenting stuff.) But for now, for the next day or two… or three, I’ll be I’ll be looking for that bench, or that doorway, or that mattress on the side of the road, where I can pause for just a minute and rest.

 

Once when I was seven my goldfish jumped out of his tank and committed suicide. He actually thought to himself, “I would rather suffocate on that pink shag carpet than spend another moment living in the care of this kid.” When I found him I was devastated.  There was no note, of course, and so I was left to assume that it was all my fault. Did he not like the seashells I’d brought back from Florida especially for him? Was he dissatisfied with the neon rocks that lined his floor? Was it the food? Could it be that I was feeding him the wrong food? I felt so misunderstood. Did this fish not know how much he was loved? Did he not hear the fish songs that I composed for him? Did he not know that when I stroked the side of his tank I was actually attempting to pet him the only way I could possibly think to pet a fish? He had no idea. It was terrible.  So terrible, in fact, that I vowed to never to purchase a fish for my offspring. I did not want any child of mine to suffer the same rejection. I figured stuffed animals were the way to go. I just assumed a synthetic creature would never hurt you the way a real one might. After all, they are not living. Sure, the ones with batteries could maybe run away, but I was going to steer clear of those altogether.

 

I’d find the most inanimate of all inanimate objects and encourage my daughter to fall in love with it.

 

That’s how “Corduroy” made his way into our lives. It started with me reading her the book Corduroy- it’s a story all about a girl who saves up her very own money to buy her very own bear who becomes her very best friend.  My daughter and I read it over and over again and then one rainy day I presented her a dollar. “This,” I said, practically stealing lines directly from the story, “is your very own money. Let’s go to the thrift store and maybe we can find something special to buy with it.”

 

She lit up with excitement. “Maybe,” she stammered, “I will find my very own bear.”

 

Together we rushed to the stroller and trotted off to the store. It was magic.  And it only got better…

 

When we arrived it was as if the universe had conspired to make this moment happen. Right there on the shelf was the very prefect bear- he was scruffy and lanky- he could sit up on his own! He had this look in his eyes like he had lived a thousand lives and was just full of stories to tell.  My daughter was in love. She took him into her arms and said, “This is it mommy. This is Corduroy. He will be my very own bear.”

 

And just like that Corduroy joined our family- he ate meals with us, he slept in my daughter’s bed, he joined us on road trips and accompanied Sage to all traumatic events like haircuts and trips to the doctor. He was great- better than a pet- way better than some old fish. He was dependable.

 

But then…something shifted. Corduroy started trying to ditch us.

 

It started on a trip to the park- he actually had the nerve to jump out of the stroller and attempt to take up residence under a tree on the side of the road. Then he hid under a stack of books at the library and spent several hours living the high life with the local children’s librarian. One time he even spent the night at a toy store- was he hoping to get re-purchased by some other cooler family? He’s really unbelievable, we’ve had to retrieve him from buses and grocery stores and restaurant lavatories (god only knows what he was doing in there…something illegal I’m sure. I’ve lived in New York. I know what happens in bathrooms).  No matter where we go, no matter how much fun we are having, he tries to abandon us.

 

I cover for him of course. I don’t want my daughter to know what a drifter he is. When she discovers he’s missing I tell her, “Oh he’s just on a little vacation, he’ll be back as soon as he enjoys some down time.” or “Corduroy… I think he’s at school. Did I not tell you he recently enrolled in community college…he’s probably in class.” I just do whatever it takes to buy time while my husband races around town trying to find him, searching park benches and alley ways…it’s just so upsetting. Corduroy has no idea how good he’s got it.  My daughter is the most loving attentive caregiver you could ever hope for. She is tender and loyal and funny. She dances with him every night. She tucks him into bed and serenades him to sleep. She shares her food with him and rocks him when he is feeling down. He’s the luckiest damn bear in the world.

 

The next time he tries something funny I’m going to put my foot down. “No Corduroy! Not on my watch! This ends now.” I’m going say my piece, not only for my daughter but for all children, all children who have been taken for granted and ditched and by their stuffed bears, and velveteen rabbits, and plush lovies, and…and…YES! THEIR FISH!!!

 

Up until last Friday I was a wizard and I had this magical power. No matter what the situation I could stop my two-and-a-half-year-old from making mischief simply by chanting the following magic spell:

“I’m going to count to three and if you don’t stop you are going to have to… [Insert appropriate ending such as "go to your room", "go home"," put away your toys" etc]

It worked every time. I felt like such a gifted being to have come up with such a trustworthy spell.

I used my magic sparingly of course and never took it for granted. I had seen enough wizard movies to know that if you abuse your magical powers they usually get taken away from you by “The Association of Magical Wizards”. This fearsome gaggle of overlords is like the co-op board of the mystical world. They put you in your place when you step over the line.

I always played it safe and only used my spell when my daughter was doing something like poking an animal with a stick or screaming relentlessly at the top of her lungs because she wanted apple juice. And because I was so sparing and so respectful I guess I just assumed that I’d have my power and be a wizard forever.

But last Friday, (oh, that cursed day), I got a rude awakening. I was taking a nice fall walk with Sage and one of her toddler friends. Both kids were happily hopping along the sidewalk and hunting for acorns when all of a sudden Sage spotted a pile of fallen leaves. Both children ran to the leaves, scooped them up, and then exploded them into the air like confetti. It was so picturesque I felt like I was at a calendar shoot for the month of October. But then the leaves on the sidewalk ran out and Sage happened to notice that there were more leaves in the middle of the street. “I want those,” she said, and darted past me towards the piles. “No,” I warned. “We can not play in the street. I need to keep you and your buddy safe and running in traffic is not safe.”

Sage was not satisfied with my response. She dipped her toe over the curb and slowly inched her body into a squat and then tried crawling towards the leaves. “No,” I reprimanded. “No running in traffic, no crawling in traffic.” I could see her buddy was starting to hanker for those leaves too. He was watching Sage in her attempts and clearly plotting his move. I knew I had to lay down the law. I could handle one rogue kid, but certainly not two.  What if they both ran towards the leaves at the same time? How would I rescue them? This was about to get dangerous; I had to bust out my magic.

“Sage…” I said, taking my wizard stance; legs spread and arms akimbo. “I am going to count to three and if you do not start cooperating and listening we are going to have to go home.”

I waited for the shimmering sparks and the immediate shift in tone that usually follows that statement… but nothing happened.

Sage just stared at me, her face as unmoved as a brick wall. “OK,” she said, like she was sixteen and completely apathetic, “Let’s go home.” Then with a sprightly hop she once again tried trotting towards the leaves.

I lunged for her and took her into my arms, completely stunned. I just held her there dangling in front of me. I tried whispering the spell. I tried saying it in Elfin and then in Klingon. She just shook her head.

There was nothing left to do. We had to go home. I gathered both children into my arms and tried to hold tight as they squirmed and wiggled and begged for more leaves.

“No,” I said. “The fun is over. If you can not listen you can not play.”

When we got home Sage and I had a talk and then I hid in the bathroom and stared at my reflection. I just wanted to know what a wizard looked like when she’s been stripped of her magic. It was a sad, sad sight.

And now I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know if there is some sort of appeal process. Like, maybe I can go before the wizard association and beg for my power back. I can tell them how very important that magic was to my life. “Look, I need that power. I need it. That power allows me to stay sane. It allows me to keep food off of the walls and water off the floor of the bathroom. It keeps animals safe, it keeps my child safe. It keeps libraries quiet. Do it for the good of all humanity. What will become of my world if I no longer have the ability to curb the unwieldy ways of a toddler with my incantation? Regular humans might have other coping mechanisms to deal with these types of situations, but I never developed those skills. I was a wizard, damn it! I was special!  It’s like you are taking a monkey who has been raised in captivity and suddenly throwing her into the jungle. Don’t do it. Don’t thrust me out!”

But something makes me think they might just laugh in my face and tell me to deal with it. Maybe they’d give me some speech about it being part of the journey. Maybe they’d tell me that being a wizard is not about spells and simple magic, it’s about hard work and time and persistence.

And that would really piss me off. After all, once you’ve felt what it’s like to have magic, even for a minute, it’s really a bummer to go back to your regular human ways.

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