My bedside table has always been a crowded place, undusted and littered with hand cream, antacid bottles and lip gloss. My tendency toward OCD usually keeps me in check, however, my bedside table has always been the exception. But when my daughter was three, she walked into my bedroom, examined my mess, and hooked her princess crown on the bedside lamp.
"I made it pretty," she stated proudly.
“Thank you,” I said, laughing and hugging her.
“I’ll get more,” she replied.
As the days passed, it was like living with an aggressive magpie bent on sprucing up my bedside table. The objects were less likely to be jewels, and more likely to be a sock she’d used to blow her nose.
My bedside table became a combination of childhood sculptures and my daily accoutrement, and while cluttered, it was endearing. I was a working single mother at the time, and when I rolled over to sleep at night and saw our enmeshment of co-shrine belongings, it made me feel like we were doing okay.
One night I turned out the lights and fell asleep. Hours later I awoke in a state of pure panic. Someone was in the house. There was a voice in my room. I shot out of bed, blinking rapidly, trying to see my way through the darkness, pulsing with fight or flight emotions.
A high pitched demonic-quality voice filled the room, "Iridescent! You're looking sparkly tonight!"
Strange green lights flashed on my bedside table, and I realized there was no intruder in the apartment. No poltergeist had befallen our abode. The explanation was simple. Resting upon a stack of Dr. Seuss books, and beside my lip gloss and a plastic teacup full of marbles, was Jane’s most prized possession, her talking Tinkerbell cell phone.
You have never known terror until you have been frightfully awakened by a tinny dollar store version of Tinkerbell’s voice. I took a few hundred deep breaths, switched the toy phone to “off” and settled back into bed.
Ten minutes later, Tinkerbell was back, "My, I'm impressed by your fairy wisdom!"
Undereye circles blazing purple, I jumped from bed, grabbed the toy, and made a beeline for the bathroom. I had no more logic in my being. I was sleep deprived, pumped full of cortisol, and being haunted by a seemingly possessed toy. I only knew one thing: Tinkerbell had to die.
I filled the bathroom sink and submerged the cell phone in water. Standing there at three in the morning, drowning a child’s toy, in hindsight, might have been a bit dramatic. I could have just removed the batteries, a thought that dawned on me the next morning when I was sane again. But as I watched the air bubbles gurgle to the surface, I knew the little electric workings of its guts were smoldering into oblivion and there would be no more midnight Tinkerbell horror in my house.
As I went back to bed and glanced over at our bedside sculptures, I realized this late-night crime would not go unjudged. A plan became very clear in my mind. Jane would find the phone, push the previously chatty buttons and declare, “It’s broken!” To which I would reply, “Aw, that’s okay. We’ll go buy another toy.” And then we would skip off together, holding hands on a mommy/daughter date, and buy something that contained zero batteries.
This plan was not meant to be.
The next morning, I awoke, stretched, and smiled when I saw Jane arranging her hair bows on my bedside table. My smile faded when I heard a horrible, garbled voice from the bathroom speak out, "You are glowing with sunshine today!"
It sounded as if Tinkerbell had aged 40 years and developed a heavy smoking problem, “The fairy dust is ready for harvest!”
“My phone!” Jane exclaimed, running to pick it up and holding it to her ear, unfazed by its wetness and Tinkerbell’s new bass-level voice.
The experts should really tell you about things like this. No one tells you that one day you'll try to snuff out Tinkerbell. And then plan to lie to your kid about it. And then Tinkerbell will resurrect herself from the dead and taunt you with her zombie vocal chords.
No one tells you these things.
No one tells you that pregnancy sometimes involves far less glowing and way more waddling.
No one tells you that after you have a baby, and the doctor gives you the no-sex-for-six-weeks speech, you’re going to laugh in his face and say, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you because I was distracted by my 50,000 stitches. Did you say 16 weeks?”
No one tells you that yes, you might get depressed.
And yes, you might need medication.
No one tells you that your toddler’s toys may be scarier than any horror movie.
No one tells you that when your baby voluntarily kisses you on the face and picks her nose, your heart will explode with joy when she reaches out a finger and says “Here mommy, my booger.”
You will hug her.
You will take that booger.
You will realize whatever path you followed to arrive at that spot, the spot that allows you to be filled with joy over a booger-present, was worth it.
And sometimes, no one will tell you that you are a miraculously resilient being. But you are. Hard things will happen, and you will survive. You will learn. You will become stronger than you ever imagined.
You will drown a Tinkerbell phone in the sink, hear it rise from the dead, and you will say, “Not so fast smart mouth, let’s see how you fair in the freezer.”