My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Dragons and Ghosts

2005-10-12
Lately, Dusty's bedtime routine has been a chapter or two of whatever book we're reading (right now it's The BFG by Roald Dahl) and then I have to tell her either a princess story or a ghost story – one that's not too scary. The princess stories evolved into a series of stories about two princes, George and Peter, who sneak out of their room at night to a secret cave in the forest. Dusty always insists that they go to the wrong cave so despite the fact that they have flashlights and take the same path through the forest to their cave, they never manage to find it on the first try. One night they stumbled into a cave full of chocolate bears. Another was filled with ice cream. One cave had tunnels that wound down into the earth where they discovered a kitchen filled with lizards who were cooking all their favorite foods: cakes, pumpkin pies, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese.

The ghost story I told her last night involved three princesses, Rachel, Rebecca & Ruby, who lived in a very old castle. The castle had a ghost in it named Howard who was once a knight who killed hundreds of dragons during his life. One fateful night, though, his sword missed and the dragon toasted him with his flame. But Howard refused to believe he was dead so he continued to wander around the castle, sad and lonely. When the girls went down to the castle kitchen for cake and ice cream, Howard wanted some. But, while he could lick the ice cream and taste it, he couldn't really eat it. The ice cream went through his ghostly figure and plopped onto the floor. When the girls played ball in the stairways, Howard would want to play, too, but his foot went right through the ball when he tried to kick it. Dusty likes details like that. She makes plot suggestions and I tell the story. Sometimes, while I'm talking, she'll shred a Kleenex up or experiment with lip gloss. I remember being this fidgety at her age and I also remember that even though it drove my mom nuts, I was still listening to the story so I have to hope that Dusty is too, even though she won't just lay down next to me. Or, she interrupts with some thought that's occurred to her since her mind doesn't slow down either.

I wish Dusty could stay like this. She's at this nice age where she still unself-conscious about her physical self and shares her internal life with me. There are few secrets she keeps. Recently, there was a college student in town that went missing two weeks after the semester started. Her mother professed to know her daughter, knew there was no secret life her daughter was leading. But, it turns out the daughter did not share every aspect of her life with her mother. An ex-boyfriend, subsequently arrested for owning child pornography, was questioned after her disappearance. He has his own set of problems. There was evidence of time spent in online chat rooms and the like. The girl's body was found last week a hundred miles away in a small Eastern Shore town. Cause of death is still unknown. I did not know her or the ex-boyfriend but I know people who knew him, who hung out in their general circle.

But it's not so much the story itself that saddens me, since it's always awful to hear about a missing child, especially when you know how it's going to play out. What really struck me was the insistence of the mother that her daughter kept no secrets from her, that she knew her daughter and her daughter was a good girl. And she was. But, eventually, we all have to grow apart from our parents, create our own life, make our own choices, and we don't tell our parents everything. Partly that's because we know they wouldn't approve and we don’t want to hear their disapproval. And, partly it's because we're grown-ups now ourselves and what we do and how we act is none of their business anymore. We have to learn from our own mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes can be fixed. Sometimes they can't. Whatever mistake this college girl made, it can't be fixed.

I hope Dusty – and Red – will always feel like they can share any aspect of their lives with me as they get older but I know that's too much to ask. I hope that, whatever they get into, good or bad, they'll feel safe telling me – without worrying about how I'll take the news, but that's a pipe dream, too. Perhaps I just hope that they'll always want to let me in when I knock, that they won't roll their eyes too much when I call, that they won't get involved with people who will harm them, that they'll gravitate towards simple pleasures that won't get them killed. There. I said it. The worst fear in print.

I guess I'll just have to send them off with a ghost knight to vanquish the dragons. And share an ice cream cone. If only that were enough. If only it were that simple. Geez.

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3:26 p.m. ::
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