Last night Leta read me The Nose Book, lingering as long as she could on each individual word in an effort to delay bedtime. I was trying to get her tucked in early because she had stayed up hours past her normal bedtime for the previous two nights, and the sleep deprivation was causing all sorts of side effects, mainly irritability, but a new, mysterious one popped up that caused temporary paralysis in her legs. If I wanted her to put her pants on, HER! LEGS! WOULDN’T! WORK! If it was time to put away her toys, HER! LEGS! HER LEEEGGGGGGGS! And where normally she would just throw her body face first onto the floor she instead collapsed like a house of cards, limb over limb into a pile of useless body parts, screaming the entire way that IT’S! NOT! FUNNY! Followed by STOP! LAUGHING! MOM!
After she finished the story I stood up to turn off her lamp, but she grabbed my wrist and pulled me back onto the bed.
“Mom,” she said delicately, as if she was about to reveal some bad news, a tone that is code for STALLING. STALLING. STALLING. “I really don’t want to go to school tomorrow.”
I reached over and rubbed her cheek with my thumb. “I know how you feel, ” I said. “I’ve got five projects that I’ve got to work on tomorrow, and I don’t want to do that either.”
“Then how about I stay home and we can play with my cash register?” she suggested.
“Leta,” I said, “life is sometimes filled with things we don’t want to do, and sometimes it’s filled with things we love to do.”
Sensing that I wasn’t going to budge, she fell back sharply onto her pillow and blurted, “THE EARTH IS COLD AND DARK!”
“COLD. AND. DARK.”
“Because I’m making you go to—”
Several seconds passed in silence, and then finally I leaned down to kiss her forehead. She reluctantly remained still, letting out an exasperated HUMMMMPH! that blew the hair away from my face. After turning off the light I lingered in her doorway. “Leta…” I said, seeing if she would interrupt me with yet another guttural protest reminiscent of a wounded farm animal. She didn’t make a sound, so I continued, “I think it’s time. Tomorrow morning we’re introducing you to The Smiths.”