Our in-house recycling plant

When Leta started preschool a year and a half ago I let her take a book with her every day to help her through the transition. I would have let her take a stuffed animal or a blanket had either of those things been the object that brought her comfort, but you may have noticed once or twice or perhaps in every entry I’ve ever written about her that she is not your traditional kid. Stuffed animals serve no purpose other than to take up space that could otherwise be occupied by books, and blankets, well, isn’t that what Daddy uses to warm himself at night as he sleeps next to that frigid ice queen?

She continued taking books to school with her for well over a year until her teacher pulled me aside one day and said it had become a distraction, so I revoked the privilege. No more taking books to school. Simple as that, at least for me. For Leta, however, it was a little more complicated, a bit like removing her will to live. She pleaded, she bargained, she negotiated like the life of a prisoner depended on it, but no matter how many times she brought up the fact that other kids were allowed to bring books to school, I never gave in. Always adding as a postscript that perhaps one day she, too, would grow up to be a mean mother like me and be surprised by how satisfying it is to watch the word “no” fly through the air and paralyze a room of four-year-olds. It’s a parenting skill I like to call Magic.

Recently her teacher declared that every Friday is Toy Day, and the kids are encouraged to bring their favorite toys to school to share with everyone else. Most kids take Barbies or Legos or board games, but Leta has stuck to her books often begging me to let her take more than one. And then last week I got a media kit for a children’s educational DVD in the mail, one of hundreds of media kits I’ve been sent by PR companies in the last few years, a branded folder full of advertising materials, plot summaries, crew bios, and press quotes. Basically, a boring folder stuffed with even more boring paper, something I threw into the recycler immediately because it was addressed to Heather Arrington. Shouldn’t that be lesson number one in PR school? Learn how to read?

Little did I know that Leta has been trolling the recycler lately looking for discarded treasures. This started last week when I went on a cleaning binge and tossed out a mountain of crap that she has been collecting: a mass of rubber bands, a broken slinky, stray Polly Pocket shoes, and a tiny Play Doh container THAT SHE NEVER EVEN KNEW SHE HAD. Next thing you know there’s a giant nuclear cloud of misery knocking the cabinet doors off their hinges in the kitchen, and when I run into the room to see what rogue army has invaded our house I find her lying on the ground using her body to shield me from the Play Doh container she has just discovered during a recent dumpster dive.

So I wake up on Friday morning to a small disheveled person standing right next to the bed, her eyes level with mine, and when I pull her up to lie next to me I notice she’s holding the media kit that I had thrown away. The media kit that was ADDRESSED TO THE WRONG HEATHER. And before she even says good morning or hello or why does your breath smell like ass, she announces that she’s taking this toy to school today. This beautiful toy. The most glorious toy she has ever possessed. A media kit full of single-spaced ad copy so dull that the person who wrote it dreaded having to check for typos. That morning we decided that for Christmas she’s getting a season pass to the Salt Lake Valley Landfill.