She’s standing on the curb, adorable, a pink striped turtle neck, capri’s, yellow and blue striped socks. Her disheveled hair sprongs to attention, curls ignited by the wind. She sees the car, cracks a toothy smile and swings her pink pack over her shoulder.
Maybe things will be better today. Maybe she’ll understand.
“Hi Mom! Can we go to Riley’s Market?”
“No, honey, we can’t.”
The smile contorts to a frown, her nose wrinkles and her eyebrows furrow. Her irises shift from blue to aqua; the mood ring of her soul. She glares at me, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“But, whhhhhhy? You never let me go to Riley’s Market, WHHHHHHHY?”
Why? WHY? Because we have debt. Credit card debt. Bad debt that we shouldn’t have. And this debt is from nothing. No big expenditure. It’s from life. Groceries, insurance, daycare. Target and Safeway. We have to pay this off. We can’t have this over our heads. We can’t go to the market for chocolate and cookies.
“Because I already told you we could go only once a week and, besides, you don’t need the sugar.”
“But I’m hunnnngry.”
Good lord child we are five minutes from home.
“We have food at home. Goldfish crackers, yogurt, Go-gurt even.”
“I don’t like those things! I don’t want them!”
“Well we have nuts, pistachios and cashews. There are frozen nuggets and veggie sausages.”
“Hmmmmpfff!" she grumbles, arms crossed. The conversation is over and I am momma non grata, the epitome of all evil who cares not for her child or her needs.
They are in the bath, the girls. I want to sit and read to them as they luxuriate in the warm soapy water. But the black hole of our house has rendered our book invisible. Perhaps there are fourth dimensional beings (or fifth or sixth) greedily savoring Pinky Pye. I should consider myself lucky. A major astronomical phenomenon resides within these walls. Perhaps tomorrow Hawking Radiation will spit the book back into this realm and we’ll be able to finish our story. But not tonight.
“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED!”
“But you have to. You’re tired. You’re growing. You need to rest.”
“I AM NOT TIRED!!! GO, LEAVE, GET OUT OF MY ROOM! I DON’T WANT YOU IN HERE!”
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”
“You told me to leave.”
“I DON’T WANT YOU TO GO.”
What you really want, child, what you need is to sleep.
“Okay, I’ll stay, but only if you tell me a story.”
She's crying again. I tuck her hair behind her ear. She turns away from me and looks at the wall.
“Once upon a time there was a girl. She had a very mean mommy who would not buy her snacks after school. There was nothing but yucky food in the house and she made a gross dinner. She wouldn’t even make her daughter noodles. Then the little girl had to take a bath and go to bed. The end. Now you tell me a story.”
Her story told she rolls over and defiantly faces me. She's sure I understand the gravity of the situation, the meanness that is me. I pull the blanket up under her chin and sit on the end of her bed criss cross apple sauce.
“Once upon a time there was a Mommy. She had to work very hard at a job in the middle of the night. The job made her very tired. Then she came home and took her daughter to school. After that she took a nap but didn’t sleep very much because the neighbor’s dog wouldn’t stop barking. Then she got up because she had to pick up her daughter from school. Her daughter wasn’t very nice. She wanted to go the the market but her Mommy said no. Her mommy doesn’t want to work so much. She doesn’t want to work so hard. She wants to be able to stay home with her kids. So she is trying to save money to get out of debt and spend time with her family. The end.”
"You didn’t tell me that, you didn't.”
"Well, I just did."
She gets it. She gets it. Does she get it?
“I love you Mommy.”
“I love you too. Good night baby, good night.”