I haven’t been blogging much, and I apologise, but I’ve been working hard on my fringe show, ‘No Matter Where You Go, There You Are’ (if you don’t know anything about it, visit my OTHER blog which is all about the process of creating this crazy show. The link is: http://nomatterwhereyougothereyouare.blogspot.com/ )
We had a little disaster yesterday at the river. Its one of those disasters that all children go through at some point: the loss of a beloved toy. My brother lost his teddy bear (imaginatively named Washington Augustus Gloop – he always was a step ahead of the curve, my brother) on the battlefield of Gettysburg, which at least is very interesting, and gives you the opportunity to make jokes about ‘another brave soldier lost at Gettysburg’ or some such (not that I encourage joking around battlefields, especially not one as glorious and symbolic and American as Gettysburg), but it was distressing nonetheless for my brother at the time (he was 3, I think).
Anyway, I bet you can guess what happened at the river. We were walking over the bridge, and the Little One was clutching two of her favourite plastic figurines, Esay and Leon, one in each hand. Her elder sister had jumped up on the bridge’s railings, and the Little One wanted to follow suit. She put her little hands, still clutching the toys, up on to the railings. I was in the middle of saying, ‘Be careful of Leon,’ when the toy slipped out of the Little One’s hand and fell into the water.
The Little One wasn’t quite aware of what had happened to begin with. She cried out, ‘My Leon! We have to go get him!’ But the enormity of the situation didn’t sink in just yet. I have to say, I wasn’t particularly sensitive to begin with, because the sight of little red-haired Leon bobbing in the river, surrounded by very confused ducks who were attempting to eat his head, was too funny. I was in hysterics, as Leon was caught up by the tide and swept downstream. It was at this point that the Little One started to get worried. No one had leapt to retrieve Leon, and she couldn’t see him anymore. She started to wail, ‘My Leon, my Leon! Have to get a ladder!’ This was a pretty good idea, really, if it weren’t for the fact that Leon was in the middle of a wide river, and was now 50 metres away from us, rather than directly below the bridge. It was then that I realised I would have to confront the situation with the Little One.
|Artist’s impression of Leon. If found, please return to: Jenny, Co. Cork|
‘We can’t get Leon back,’ I said. This did not go down well.
‘Have to!’ She wailed.
‘Leon’s gone an adventure, I can’t get him back.’
‘No! Have to get the man!’ she squealed (this is her explanation for most things when they’ve been broken, as we have told her many times that ‘her bike will be fixed by the man’, or ‘the TV will be fixed by the man’, or ‘the man has come to fix the sink’. Of course, they’re all different men, but we don’t use all their names, so now it seems like she thinks there is one Mr. Fix-It, who you call whenever anything goes wrong in your life. Her other solution to every problem is batteries).
I said, ‘No, the man can’t get Leon back.’
‘Yes he can! Yes he can! Have to get Leon!’ She was getting very distressed now, so I picked her up and started to carry her away. This got her even more upset. So, I decided to try a whimsical approach, something that you might have seen in Hollywood films or daytime soaps.
‘Leon’s gone on an adventure, sweetheart! He’s swimming all the way out to the ocean, and he’s going to be picked up by a big ship and he’s going to sail the seas! He’s going to have lots of fun, so we should be happy for him!’
‘WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! Have to get Leon back!!!’
At this point, her elder sister decided to jump in and get involved. ‘Leon’s going to come to Castletownshend on the ship and you can find him there.’
Now the Little One was delighted. She stopped crying and started clapping her hands. But, for me, this wasn’t a solution. What was going to happen when she got to Castletownshend and Leon wasn’t there? I appreciated the eldest girl’s efforts, but I felt I had to clarify.
‘Well, yes, maybe, the ship will drop him off there, but he’s going on a big adventure before that and we don’t know when he’ll find you again…..’
‘WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! Have to find Leon, have to find him!’
The eldest girl clearly didn’t think much of my comforting skills, because she chimed in again, ‘Mummy and Daddy get you a BIG Leon for your birthday! A BIG soft teddy bear Leon!’
Again, the Little One was delighted. She started clapping her hands and chanting, ‘Yeah, BIG teddy bear Leon!’ I didn’t even know what a ‘teddy bear Leon’ was, let alone whether or not it could be bought. I felt the need to clarify, again.
‘Well, yes, maybe, we will have to ask them…’
‘WAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! Jenny, Jenny, want BIG soft Leon teddy!’
But, I was determined to live out my fantasy of being Susan Sarandon in ‘Little Women’ or Karen Grassle in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ or something, determined to comfort without recourse to promising to buy things, or that things would suddenly, magically reappear. I was determined to comfort through whimsical lies, as had been the solution of hundreds of thousands of parents before me (‘Fido’s gone to a lovely farm where he can run around all day in the fields!’ ‘Of course Santa brought you your presents!’ ‘If you’re good and eat your crusts, your hair will go curly!’ ‘The fairies down the bottom of the garden make the flowers grow!’)
‘I think Leon has swum all the way to the sea, and he’s going to be picked up by a pirate ship, and he’s going to become a pirate! He’s going to get an eye-patch and a wooden leg and a talking parrot! He’s going to sail the high seas and look for hidden treasure, and he’s going to become rich! Would you like to be a pirate, Little One?’
She wasn’t sure where this was going, but she nodded hesitantly.
‘Would you like to be a pirate and sail on a big boat?’
‘OK!’ She said more enthusiastically.
‘OK, I’m going to be a pirate too! Would your sister like to be a pirate?’
The elder girl wasn’t going to play ball. She could see her own whimsical lies being hijacked and she didn’t like it.
‘Ok, you can be the talking parrot then.’
‘Parr-ah, Parr-ah,’ chirped the Little One.
I had done it. I was the champion. I was the magical nanny that I had read about in millions of English children’s books. But, then the eldest girl saw a way of ruining my calm seas.
‘Will Leon really never come back, Jenny?’
Her elder sister didn’t skip a beat.
‘Mummy and Daddy buy you a NEW Leon! A BIG Leon!’
‘Yay! Big Leon! Jenny, Mummy and Daddy get a BIG Leon!’
‘Yay. A big Leon.’