October 31st, 2008
Sometimes I mistake it for melancholy. And maybe now and then it is. She absorbs moods, energies, feelings instantly and spits them back out like a crazy spigot, but after the initial flood, she settles into quiet reflection. It’s almost as if she’s saturated by the sheer intensity of her emotion and can’t take more in.
I capture images of her gazing into the middle distance, or submerged somewhere deep within, and I recall what someone said to me once when she caught me doing the same thing. “Where do you go?” I had no answer, because I wasn’t sure exactly, I just knew that in the time I was “gone,” I’d played through a dozen daydreams and calmed a hundred emotional ripples. I never even knew I’d been away, my head is such rich company, but my friend noticed the blank stare and the unreachable vastness in my expression and so I was lost to her in those briefest of minutes.
I imagine it’s the same with my daughter.
But when her daydreams come alive? Now that’s my favorite part.
The other day, she came running into the living room clutching a key she’d found in her closet. “A golden key, mommy! A golden key!” She waved it in front of me. “It opens something! I’m going to solve the mystery!” And out she dashed again to root through her closet searching for what? A diamond lockbox? A rotting coffin? Pandora’s Box? Occasionally she’d pop out again and give me updates. “I haven’t solved the mystery yet.” Or, “Do you think there’s a map?”
When the mystery was ultimately solved — the key opened a fusebox behind her winter coat — her disappointment broke my heart. She’d wanted a real life mystery, a locked attic filled with forgotten treasures, a witch’s potion cabinet, something magical and enchanted, but she got a box of wires and switches. I promptly promised her a mystery to solve, complete with another shiny key and a map this time, and I hope my imagination proves a match for hers.
It used to. Like when I’d convinced myself that our neighbors had too much trash…garbage that surely held human remains or the detritus of a counterfeiting ring…garbage that drew me to their home again and again to investigate in the dead of night. The thrill of sneaking into my neighbor’s yard for surveillance, rolling my getaway bike along with me for a quick dash should I be discovered, will never be as powerful as it was when I was 8 years old. I still love my mysteries and my dreamt-up scenarios, but by now I’ve seen too many boxes of wires and switches. Still, as I approach 40, I find myself looking for the locked attic.
And I want the same for Toots. I caught her this morning, staring down at her new sparkly shoes, as she went to the place I go, the place where she’s lost for a time and barely knows she’s been gone. When she came to, I asked her what she’d been thinking. “I was just admiring my shoes,” she said. “I wondered where they will take me.”
“Maybe somewhere mysterious,” I said, knowing how the word “mysterious” would please her.
The veil began to fall over her eyes. “Really, like where?” Her voice sounded like it came from the bottom of a rabbit hole.
I couldn’t think of a thing fast enough. But no matter. She was already gone, and so I scrambled to follow.