Little Miss Smartypants, Version 2.0
My family and I spent the last few days at a retreat center at the Oregon coast with a large collection of in-laws, outlaws, and assorted relatives. Since the number of private rooms is limited, we usually give them to whoever has the smallest (read: loudest) children, or those from the grandparent generation who prefer not to climb into bunk beds, thank you very much. My family is in neither of those categories, so we happily staked out a corner in the dormitory with several other family members.
On Monday, Mary and I woke up around 8:15 after a somewhat patchy night of sleep. Our bunkbeds (wooden, with plastic-covered mattresses) were much better than the standard 1986-era accommodations I recall from Camp Glendawn, where I spent much of my summers in my teen years - ah, the delights of flattened mattresses, concave with the memory of decades of sleepless little bodies, sagging into the generous downward curve of the swaybacked metal bed frames. On the other hand, one thing we could be fairly sure of avoiding (at least in the girls’ dorm) was the bone-rattling buzzsaw snore of an adult man with a head cold.
I heard Mary rustling in her bunk overhead and whispered up to her, “Come down and snuggle with me?” I used to so love those early mornings when she was still tiny, and (if she wasn’t already in there with me) retrieving her warm wiry little self from her crib for that Mary & Mommy time. I loved looking down at her pink, wiggly little body, grinning up at me with her toothy smile and hyper-aware gaze. It always seemed like she was on the verge of some wry comment, if only she could talk. We don’t get many morning snuggles any more, so I took advantage of the opportunity to curl her into my sleeping bag to let our warm, sleepy bodies settle in under the blanket while we talked.
She yawned mid-sentence, and before she’d gotten halfway through it, the contagious nature of yawns caught me in a jaw-cracking yawn of my own. She’s getting old enough to be able to understand my particular brand of snark, so I quipped, “Thanks.” She shot back, “You’re welcome” in a tone of voice that reminded me that she’s my daughter and her Aunt Mary’s niece, and apparently whatever genetic code contains joking sarcasm, it has been passed down to little Mary entirely undiluted.
We chatted about nothing for a while, her morning “Wakey Girl” mode basically unchanged from her toddler years when she could go from slack-jawed sleep to standing on her little bed jabbering in (I am not making this up) less than ten seconds. This, combined with my usual slow emergence to consciousness, probably would have made for some amusing conversation to an observer. After a few minutes, Mary made a very Brenda-ish non sequitur in a mysterious voice: “There’s an EYE up there.”
I rallied my limited mental resources enough to determine that she was talking about a knot in the grain of the wood in the bunk overhead. I blindly groped until I located my glasses, and sure enough, some unknown camper had inked a pupil onto it and drawn a circle for an iris. We looked at it consideringly for a moment. It didn’t do anything. Then Mary said in a sepulchral voice (for a 10-year-old, anyway), “It’s WATCHING US.”
We both started giggling, and I launched into an early-morning-alto chorus of “It sees you when you’re sleeping, it knows when you’re awake,” and continued through the song with the words, “You better not shout, you better not cry, you better not whatever…” and I realized that my IQ points were not quite up to their maximum yet. We agreed that “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” is actually kind of a creepy song if you stop and think about it, and returned to our contemplation of The Great Eye.
I started to say something, and was peremptorily shushed: “Shh, I’m having a staring contest.” I replied, “Let me know how that works out for you,” and we both dissolved into giggles. Another long pause, and then: “… I think I’m WINNING.” More giggles, and then I regained just enough sense of maternal responsibility to say, “Yes, dear, but at some point you have to blink, and it doesn’t.” Extended silence, punctuated by muffled laughter, and finally: “It’s SQUINTING. I think it’s going to BLINK.”
At this point we both lost it entirely, and it was time to crawl out of our cocoon and make ourselves at least minimally presentable. I have to say, it felt pretty good to start the day knowing that even if she’d fallen off the bed as an infant and I’d let her eat a few too many M&M’s in her life and probably snapped at her when I was tired, if my daughter could be that funny before 9 a.m., I must have done something right.