Whatever I Did Couldn’t Have Been That Bad

It was a gift. My mom brought it with her one day late last winter when she came to watch the girls while I went to an appointment. It was a harmless present, she said, and gave it to Saoirse with a smile on her face because she thought SK would love it.

I gave my mom a look one would not call appreciative. “What?” she asked, seemingly innocently, with an expression on her face that was supposed to seem surprised, but I knew. This was payback. This gift was retribution for the stomping and yelling and general attitude of my teenage years. My mother was laughing because she knew she could leave this house, shut the door, and walk away while I still stuck inside, hands clapped over my ears, cowering in fear from the sheer horror that was the gift.

And SK loved it. She had it with her all the time, followed me around the house with it, gleefully played with it first thing in the morning, right before bed, standing right beside me while the stereo played softly and I hunched over the cutting board, preparing food for dinner, trying not to use the knife to gouge out my ear drums instead, restraining myself from chugging down the glass of wine on the countertop in three glugs.

So I hid this gift. Yeah, I admit it. While Saoirse was sleeping one night, I took the thing. I snuck down to the toy box the girls never use in the family room because we mainly store blankets in there and use it for extra seating, and I took the gift and buried it. I know, it’s terrible. But I just couldn’t take it anymore. You have to understand. So I hid the thing under those extra throws and pillows and forgotten balls and rattles. I took that bright blue, standout toy and covered it until no one would be able to find it again, or at least not until she was packing for college and by then wouldn’t care enough about this particular toy to have to forgive me for letting her believe it was lost.

And then Friday happened. Friday, when Saoirse was sick with a cold and napping late, and Quinn was playing in the family room while I sat on the couch, folding laundry (always, yes?). Quinn discovered the toy box. With Herculean strength no 15-month-old who doesn’t yet know how to walk across the room on her own should possess, the Mighty cracked open the lid and stuck in her head. For the next 20 minutes, she took out each item, one by one, saying  “ooooohhh” and “uh-oh!,” showing me each ball and errant block. I said a prayer. I held my breath. I kept folding the clothes. And then she found it.

I saw the pause in her movement when she discovered it. I could see her strain to grab it from the far corner of the container. And then she sat down, looked at me with absolute glee on her face, wielded the thing like a javelin in the Olympics and squealed with delight before bringing it to her lips.

Twweeeeeee! Twweeeeee! Twweeeeee!”

Over and over and over again, until Saoirse came racing down from her bedroom, overjoyed to find out that–“yes!!”–her recorder had been found.

And I went upstairs to find the wine. Worst. Gift. Ever.

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