Lucy, take a memo
Memo to: Children in the Household
Re: New hiding policy, effective immediately
Date: September 27, 2002
Dear Children, which in this case means Lucy because 1) I have finally learned that pets are not the same as children; and 2) I do not yet have the fortitude to bear other offspring:
I am writing this memorandum because I want it to be entirely clear to you what the household policy on hiding is.
I know you can't read yet, and you don't know what memos even are. But I've tried explaining. I've tried yelling. I've even tried weeping, and you have not yet convinced me that you're willing to follow house rules.
Must I remind you what happened yesterday?
You fell asleep in the car, so I carried your car seat into the family room. Then Misty, who has a bad case of the itches, scratched so loudly you woke up. So I cuddled you back to sleep on the sofa then went downstairs to work on a freelance story. You always make some sort of noise when you wake up, so I kept an ear cocked.
Before long, I heard your little voice say, "Mama," so I finished typing my sentence and went upstairs.
You weren't on the couch.
"Lucy?" I called.
You didn't answer. I'd left the front door open because it was a hot day and our windows don't open, and you know how the house turns into an oven in the afternoon. So I raced out the front door, yelling your name. You weren't anywhere I could see. I looked over the skull-cracking ledges. I looked in the death-trap fountain. I ran back inside. Upstairs. Downstairs. In the kitchen. Nowhere.
"LUCY!" I yelled. "LUCY!"
I went outside and all around the house, and in the back door so that I could call 911 and report that you had been kidnapped. It felt like my life was coming to a swift and awful end. I'd been in charge. I left you alone with the front door open. And someone had taken you.
The phone wasn't in its cradle, so I paged it and followed the beeps back into the family room.
Just as I picked up the phone, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. It was you, Lucy. You'd snuck off the couch, climbed back into your car seat and buckled yourself in. In my panic to find you, I'd missed you completely.
"I'm hiding," you announced. You were smiling as though this was a funny, funny joke.
As soon as I managed to stop sobbing, I asked you why you didn't say where you were when I was yelling your name. You must have heard me. Everyone in the neighborhood heard me. My throat still hurts.
"Hiding," you repeated, as though I had not gotten the joke.
"You scared me to death!" I said. "You have to say where you are when Mama says your name!"
And still, all you did was giggle, which made me want to wring your tiny neck.
This, Lucy, is called irony. I want nothing more than for you to be safe and well, and in the process of taking care of you, you do things that make me want to kill you.
So, no more hiding. It's now company policy. Either that, or I'm going to make you wear a collar with bells so I can hear you when you're sneaking around.
Yes, that will once again blur the line between pets and children, but anyone who eats as much cat food as you can't possibly mind.
Also, I can live with that a lot more easily than I can with the thought of losing you, even if it is only for five minutes.
And finally, I will no longer be working in the basement when you take naps. There's plenty of room on the couch for the both of us. Just try not to snore. It makes Mama jealous.