Oral Hygiene Queen

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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the Argot of Our Local Storyteller

Roo is an amazing communicator for one so young (21 months, for those keeping track). She gets her point across astonishingly well almost all the time, if you're willing to take the time to listen carefully and are familiar with the peculiarities of her vocabulary (where "yung" means music, "ah-doh" is water, and "die" equals "cry"). She's actually begun telling stories, which she repeats over and over to anyone who'll listen. "Mama voh dung" quickly became one of a series of "fall down" stories. "Mama voh dung, kitchen" ended up being a slightly more developed draft of the "Mama lost it" story. She also has an "O. voh dung, helmet" story to describe a memorable incident of her bro wiping out on his bike, and she also has a "Roo voh dung, bus" story, describing how she bailed and bonked her noggin on a manhole cover when we were all on our way to catch a Chicago city bus.

My favorite of the "voh dung" series, however, is the story Roo tells about her dad. A week or so ago, the Old Man asked me to pick him up an iced coffee when I was out running errands. He and O. were heading out to the movies and, having been woken by Roo a couple hours earlier than usual that morning, he knew he'd need it to stay alert in the cool, dark theater. I came home just in time for the guys to make their show, handing off the iced coffee to my grateful man. And in his sleep deprived state, he proceeded to drop it on the recently-mopped kitchen floor. As he watched the precious beverage escape from the broken cup, making a giant mess on the floor he himself had just cleaned, his nerves already frayed by lack of sleep, he lost it, shouting obscenities in a lively dance of livid frustration. Once the mess had been cleaned up and O. and his dad rushed off to make their movie, Roo narrated the event as she saw it: "Dada voh dung ah-do, die." Daddy dropped his water, and cried.

Poor daddy.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

In Which I Am Beset by the Howling Fantods

I'm not usually skittish about small creatures I come upon in my home, whether animal, avian, or insect. I've found live mice behind my toaster without losing my shit and have caught and relocated hundreds of spiders with nary a shudder. Once when a bird flew down the chimney and into the first apartment I shared with my Old Man, I calmly put on my dishwashing gloves, followed its panicked flapping from room to room, caught it between my outstretched hands, and released it off the back porch. (All of this while my six-foot-tall man kept his unnerved self as far from the bird as he could.)

On Friday I had a full-on, screetching and writhing fit in response to finding a dead mouse under the stove. I had dropped a wooden spoon between the countertop and range while cooking Roo some hot cereal, and when my Old Man moved the stove aside to allow me to get at the escaped spoon, there was a bunch of other crap in that narrow strip of no-man's-land, mostly vegetables that had jumped out of the frying pan and into the shadows. I decided to clean all the desiccated ghosts of dinners past out of this dusty zone, and had just begun nudging my wooden spoon handle at a prune that had somehow gotten wedged under the side of the stove when my Old Man, looking on over my shoulder, said "Uh, E. I don't think you should...." At that moment it came unwedged and I suddenly saw that the lifeless and mushy prune had a tail.

"It has a tail!" I shrieked. There is no font bloody enough to convey the horror with which I shrilly uttered those words. I immediately began a writhing and shuddering dance of retreat as far from the dead mouse as I could get, all the while jabbering an octave above my natural voice. I was losing my shit. My heart was racing, I could not stop the shivers running up and down the length of my body, and I couldn't seem to stop my screetching expressions of horror. If I had been wearing long skirts, I would have gathered them up off the mousey floor.

Later I tried to figure out what had made me lose it in a way I usually don't with classic "icky" stuff. Partly, I think it was the idea of a dead mouse, one I'd been poking, one that had just given way under the handle of a wooden spoon attached to my very hand. Even more than this, it was the surprising and uncanny aspect of it: a prune had essentially transformed into a dead mouse before my eyes, and that was very freaky.

What was really embarrassing about the whole dead mouse incident, however, was that the mouse ended up not being dead so much as inanimate. When my Old Man gathered up the nerve to remove the offending rodent, he was quickly relieved to realize that it was actually a toy mouse that we'd bought for our kitten when we first brought her home from the Humane Society over two years ago. She loved the thing and played with it nonstop for several days, 'til it got lost and was never seen again. Until yesterday.

So not only had I become entirely unhinged over a dead mouse under the stove, it wasn't even a real mouse.

Luckily, O. was at school and didn't get to witness his mother lose her shit. But Roo observed the whole thing from her perch in the high chair. It made a deep impression on her. For the rest of the day, she told my Old Man over and over "Mama fell down!" (which in Roo speak sounds more like "Mama voh dung!") What she really meant was "Mama broke down" or "Mama took complete leave of her senses." But "Mama voh dung" is apt. I do feel like I fell down, in a metaphorical sense. I certainly don't feel quite as tough as I did a few days ago. I'd feel better if the damn thing had actually been a real decaying rodent. At least the cat has her favorite toy back.