Rest in peace, dear Thumper (1991-2009)
Slippery, Slimy Christmas
Children are remarkable teachers. Their camouflaged lessons blend into mosaic patterns of innocence and exploration. Sometimes, I miss these organic gifts, as daily grind draws my attention away from moments. Especially at Christmas time, when anticipation mixed with expectation can turn me into one cranky momma. This Christmas Eve (2002,) my youngest child offered a “slick,” and humorous surprise.
In a perfect world (not mine,) it would have been a relaxing day. But, my Supermom pace had admittedly slipped, so my husband was relegated to last minute errands while I tended to my youngest charge, and dressed for Christmas Eve services. From the sanctuary of my bathroom, I could hear my two-year-old shadow busying himself in my closet, apparently having a difficult time deciding whether he should wear my high heels or his daddy's "copice" boots (Daddy is a police officer.) As long as his choral solo continued, I knew he was safe.
Incomplete to-do lists taunted me as I multi-tasked my way through makeup, toy assembly plans, and a frantic search for my missing shoe. My blue-eyed, blonde-haired cherub passed me on his way out of the closet and into my bedroom, clearly with his own mission in mind.
"Bye, Bye, I going to work," he exclaimed (on his way to the copice station, no doubt). I threw my signature wink at him, then he returned his own double-squint version before shutting the door. Within minutes my mommy radar alerted me to the silence. When the joyous mumbling and rambling of my toddler stops, I know trouble is afoot.
As I opened the bedroom door, I nearly tripped over Captain Daddy's boot, the heel of my missing black pump poking out the top as if in a game of footwear hide-n-seek. Staring back at me was Kiddo with a wide, sweet grin that promised mischief. His chubby little arms stiffened behind his back as he swayed from side to side (certainly to the rhythm of an unheard Wiggles song.) And then I saw it. Those precious, squeezable limbs were attached to an emptied bottle of baby oil. It had been a full bottle only moments earlier. I immediately searched his ticklish little face, searching for signs of ingestion. Then I scoured the room for a puddle, a trail, an oily artwork on my walls or bedding. There was nothing.
Toddlers will never make good poker players. One look at me and his proud confession flashed across his dimpled face like a banner. Then his giggles set in.
“What did you do?” I said, suspiciously.
He pointed to the far corner of my bedroom where my old black cat, Thumper, was high stepping like a Tennessee-Walker. From whiskers to tail, the poor cat was a slippery, slimy, oily mess. He looked like a victim from the Exxon Valdez. Would the ASPCA press charges against a diapered toddler?
My helpful little elf decided to explain, "Me give Thumper a bath, he, he, he."
We were definitely going to be late for church.
Looking back, I wish I had grabbed a camera. At the time, I was simply numbed. My husband returned at that moment to find my face twisted into some odd mixture of laughter, anger, frustration, and amazement. Kiddo’s single act of naive toddlerhood ultimately amused the stress right out of me. Besides, the cat needed a bath anyway, right?
My as-yet-undone list of Christmas duties, which now included a feline bubble bath, vanished and the chaotic holiday rush spun down to one very laughable moment (especially because Thumper wasn’t injured.) A moment that would be woven into the tapestry of our family’s holiday memory.
That slippery, slimy Christmas I received a most surprising gift from my youngest child; a cleverly disguised reminder of life in its most innocent, if not messy form. Even Supermoms have to step back, pull up the sleeves and dig into life. That in itself is a gift.
I learned many lessons that day:
* It takes very little to entertain a toddler;
*Two year-olds truly are faster than greased lightning (pun intended);
* Cats are loyal through thick and thin (or oily and slimy);
* There is no easy way to form lather where cat fur meets baby oil;
* It is a pathetic and priceless moment, when a mommy is disciplining her child in the fits of laughter-her own.