Small Z was taken by her Nana into town to see a musical. Actually, it was a ‘mousical’ as it starred Angelina Ballerina – a mouse that I dislike. I dislike her because the first Angelina Ballerina book I read had bitchy-girl fighting in it, and it also seemed to embrace gender-stereotyping with both paws. But maybe it’s just me. Small Z adored it and raced home to show her sister the dance steps she’d seen. And then made them both a pair of mouse ears out of gold cardboard.
At bedtime, she melted.
“I can’t go to bed, I CAN’T go to bed. I can’t tell you why. I have a big worry. I’m too scared to go to sleep.”
WIth a little bit of prodding, and the mantra, “A worry shared is a worry halved,” her reserves were eroded.
“I don’t want to tell you. I don’t want Nana to know, because she didn’t know, but I read a book today when we were at the gallery.”
My heart dropped. There are, as I have mentioned, downsides to having an all-star reader.
“That’s OK baby, I’m not going to be upset with you.”
“I didn’t let Nana see I was reading it.”
“It was called…Nap-lee-on and Josephine.” Tears started to drop down her cheeks.
“Napoleon,” I corrected her, unable to stop myself. “I think he was a famous soldier or general.”
“Emperor mama, he was an emperor. But I read in the book…” she stopped and struggled with herself. “In the book it said they CHOPPED PEOPLE’S HEADS OFF.” Her sobs took off into big heaving gasps. “They didn’t do that did they? Is that a story? Will someone chop off my head? I’m scared a monster will come in the night and chop it off.”
I inwardly cursed Angelina fucking Ballerina, my mother and the gallery. And then wrestled with myself. Did I tell her it was a story? I hate doing that. I can accept the Tooth Fairy as a cute confection, but to lie about what she had read? No.
She was beside herself, “I can’t get it out of my head! I wish I never read it. There is a worry in me now that won’t come out!”
I stroked her like a little cat. “You know how things change over time? That people used to live in caves and there were no roads or towns or electricity?” She nodded. “Well, a few hundred years before now, yes. That did happen sometimes. In a time before people knew any better. Back before there were cars, and computers and fridges. It was a REALLY long time ago, no WAY does that happen any more. Not all things that happened in the olden times were good, but people learned and tried to be better. I’m so sorry you read that.”
“You have to stay with me now mama, don’t go back upstairs. Stay next to me all night, because I still have that bad feeling in me.”
I glued myself next to her, and we eventually slept.
Last night, about three nights later, she stood next to me in the kitchen. We had not talked about it at all.
“You know what I told you about? What I read? Well it’s still inside me and I can’t get it out. I don’t like it. But don’t talk to me about it. I don’t want you to say stuff about it, it will make it more in my head.”
I nearly got out the dustpan and brush to sweep the bits of my heart off the floor. I hugged her little newly six-year-old body and wished I could squeeze the memories out of her and sweep them away too.