Mama Says
by Laura Fratus

(Plain Press, April 2005) Before I even saw my daughter’s face, I knew that something had gone bad in BunnyLand.

My son, Ned, and I had finished our secret shopping simultaneously and were waiting at the front of the big tent at the Malley’s Chocolates factory in Brookpark. Each of us was slyly eyeing the other’s pink and green paper bag, trying to figure which combination of goodies might result in a package of that particular shape and apparent weight.

But we’d had plenty of time to consider each other’s purchases, as well as to discuss what kind of candy we’d invent if we owned our own factory, and to ponder what it must sound like inside the giant hollow head of the person dressed as the Easter bunny. And still the other half of the our family had not come through the check-out lanes.

And then I looked up and saw my daughter’s face, completely stricken, even on the verge of panic.

Well, of course. She had lost her money.  Just as I almost knew she would.

We all have our crosses to bear, and my poor Audrey’s is carelessness.  It is a great relief that Audrey was born with a heart of gold, since anything else she has of value is lost, broken or otherwise ruined, usually within moments of coming into her hands. 

Her father and I have already passed through the stages of annoyance and aggravation over this, and have settled into resignation. We know she will grow out of it — someday soon, we fervently hope — and that we need to continue to let her experience both the chance to be responsible and the consequences of failing. But to Audrey, each new loss is as terrible as the last.

My husband, John, waved me over. I could tell by the look on his face that he hoped to foist onto me the job of telling her that she would not, after all, get to be a Secret Bunny. She would not get to buy the candy she’d selected for the family member whose name she had drawn from my baseball cap that morning. We would suggest that she share the candy from her own basket with the person for whom she was supposed to have been shopping, knowing that though she would offer all of it — and willingly — the better part of her Easter fun would be spoiled.

There are many times when John and I wish that someone would intervene and save our kids from their negative consequences. Dishing out discipline is not the part of parenting that either of us enjoys. But though we have our moments of indecision, we both knew this was not going to be one of them. We had handed over a $10 bill to her and received her solemn assurance that it would remain zipped carefully into her coat pocket until she was standing before the cashier. We knew without discussing it that neither of us was going to replace that lost money.  We couldn’t.

Which was what I was preparing myself to explain when Audrey looked up with astonished relief into the smiling face of Dan Malley as he offered her a $10 gift certificate, with his compliments. He had observed this little family drama unfolding and had stepped in to help. As we left the big tent, all four of us having successfully completed our Secret Bunny errands, I explained to Audrey that, yes, her benefactor was that Mr. Malley.

Sounds simple enough, and it was simple for a man with a great sense of timing and a shirt pocket full of ten dollar gift certificates. But who knows what could come of this? How much candy might a loyal customer purchase if she’s looking forward to eight or nine decades of candy shopping?

 

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