“Uh oh!” Ellis yelled. “UH OH!!”
I stepped over her to the stove where something was close to burning. My left hand gripped a stack of dishes, my right hand held the phone. I looked down. Ellis, a pile of blonde curls and pink frills, was gently trying to push a plastic lid on an uncooperative Tupperware.
The client on the phone wanted to sort something out before the weekend and nothing about that Tupperware seemed menacing enough for intervention. I moved on.
“OH OH UH OH!” She yelled. This time the tears were imminent.
“Can you hold on?” I asked, trying to make it sound like I had another call.
“Ellis, what is it?”
She pointed to the lid. “Close, mama! CLOSE!!”
I put the lid on the Tupperware and handed it to her. “BAH-CK! BAH-CK!!” She pointed to the Tupperware drawer.
“Back?” I asked. She nodded. Into the drawer the transgressive Tupperware went. Ellis sighed. “Day-do!” And crawled away.
Moments later, after I wrapped up the call and cobbled together some dinner, I found Ellis in the living room, putting plastic coins into a plastic piggy bank. “Bah-ck!” She said giggling. “Bah-ck!” I sat next to her. She smiled and handed me a piece of lint off the floor. “Icky.”
The week before, at her 15-month check up, Ellis refused the doctor’s prompting to play in the cupboard. The doctor, trying to get her to stand, waved her hand in front of the cupboard and its manifold goodies. “Ellis, come play!” The doctor said.
Ellis crawled over and shut the cupboard doors. “No, no!” She said.
Now, I look deep into my daughter’s eyes. All around me is a mess of laundry and paper and computer cords. Shipping boxes for my mythical return trip to UPS are stacked in a corner. It’s 5pm and I haven’t put on make-up and my foot is resting in something sticky. Earlier, I found the mustard in the freezer and one of my socks was stashed away with the printer paper.
“Honey,” I said in my nicest voice, “WHO ARE YOU?!”