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Nothing will jar you on a Friday morning like your 3-year-old daughter piping up from the back seat, “Mommy, tell me that story about the time Gaggie cut off your arms and feet and head again!”
Gaggie, for those of you who are wondering about the identity of my attacker, is my dad. Who, for the record, has never cut off my arms, feet, or head. Not once. So you can imagine that I was somewhat confused about which story, specifically, Ladybug was asking for.
Now, I’m not a novice at story interpretation. All of my kids have given somewhat cryptic clues at times to cue us to tell a favorite story again. For example, when Cartwheel was about 9, he spent a few days at my mom’s house. They had a grand time; all kinds of hilarity passed between those two when Cartwheel was little. At one point, they swapped jokes. My mom sent me an e-mail asking if I knew the origin of the joke Cartwheel had told her:
There was a little boy who just had a head. His father got him a drink and out popped a neck. “Give me another one,” the boy said. Out popped an arm. The boy asked for another drink. Out popped a leg. “I need one more drink,” said the boy. Out popped another leg. The boy kept drinking until he swelled up and popped. (Cue uncontrollable laughter from Cartwheel.)
Yes, I answered. That’s the joke where the father takes the boy, who only had a head, to a bar and buys him his first beer. A torso sprouts from his head. He drinks another beer, and another, and limbs appear. He’s one limb short of a whole body when he drinks one last beer and pops. The bartender looks at the father and says, “Your boy shoulda stopped while he was a head.” A head, ahead, get it?
Ladybug, however, had me genuinely stumped this morning, which I mean in only the figurative sense, because to reiterate, my father never cut off any of my extremities.
“Baby, tell me your favorite part of that story and then I’ll tell it.”
“I like the crying baby in your closet when your head was cut off.”
I hate to be dense, people, but unfortunately, that clue did not help me pin down a story that I might have told the kids often enough for Ladybug to request it as a favorite family tale. It did make me wonder for a second if she is sneaking downstairs at night to watch horror movies on Netflix.
Trying to be so calm and cool, and not immediately call for trauma counseling for my poor baby who has apparently witnessed crimes of such magnitude, I commented, “Tell me what happened after that, Sweetie.”
“Then you were a boy forever!” Darling Ladybug giggles erupted behind me.
And this clue, sadly, gave me all the information I needed.
“Once, when Mommy was a little girl, I had a crying baby doll. I also had a book by Mr. Rogers, and it said that cutting your fingernails, toenails, and hair didn’t hurt. One day, I went into my closet and turned on the light by pulling the long string that clicked on the light bulb. I closed the door so I could see myself in the long mirror on the inside of my closet door, and I sat down in my red chair with the straw seat. My baby doll started to cry. ‘Do
n’t worry,’ I said, ‘cutting your hair doesn’t hurt. See?’ I took a big hunk of hair in my hand and chop! off it came, with my very own scissors. I held the doll close. When I put her in my lap, she cried again. ‘Don’t cry, baby! Cutting your hair doesn’t hurt at all. See?’ Chop! Chop!”
“Pretty soon, Gaggie came home from work. He went to Aunt Janet’s bedroom; she was fast asleep in her crib. He went to G-Mom’s bedroom; she was fast asleep on her bed. But he couldn’t find me anywhere. He looked and looked, and finally, he opened my closet door. I sat there, with hair all around me in a circle on the floor. I looked up at Gaggie and said, ‘Don’t tell Momma.’”
“He promised me he wouldn’t tell, but G-Mom figured it out anyway. I had cut my hair so short that I looked like a boy. Gaggie called me Sam for a long time. Once, at a restaurant, the man who showed us our table said to me, ‘Right this way, young man,’ and I cried and cried. I was a girl!!”
Ladybug cracked up. “You were a boy forever!”
Yes. That’s the point of that story. Exactly.