“Fine,” said the younger daughter with great reluctance, “you can look in my room. As long as you don’t open the second dresser drawer.“
She looked at us with her I’m Not Kidding face, and her Don’t Try Me Right Now lip-pursing, and the I’m a Preteen And I WILL Knife You in Your Sleep stare, and we knew she meant business.
It was nighttime, just before we put kids to bed, and we parents were busily searching the house to find the missing cord to an ancient white noise maker in another bid to help our anxious kid sleep better, but at our daughter’s emphatic direction, Greg and I looked at each other with that quick and silent conversation you perfect over the course of parenting; Do you know why she said that, we thought at each other, because I sure don’t, and WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN, ANYWAY, “don’t open the second dresser drawer?”
It’s like a when small children get quiet in the other room. There’s an instant sense of foreboding. Nothing good came come of this, you think, and, given the number of times you’ve turned the corner to find a modern Sharpie art mural on the kitchen cabinets or a toddler playing blissfully in in the bin of flour she’s dumped upon the floor, you’re usually right.
“Hey, Aden?” I said. “What’s in that dresser drawer, honey?”
I tried my nicest, least panicky voice. I mean, the kid’s in middle school. It could be DRUGS. Or SEX, although I’m not sure how you’d put sex in a dresser drawer, but KIDS THESE DAYS; ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE. Or what if she’s the head of an Underground Candy- or Chips-Smuggling ring?? Like the mob boss of candy and chips! If so, I’ll have to confiscate all her merchandise and eat it to teach her a lesson. There’s no way I wasn’t finding out what was in that drawer.
“I don’t want to tell you,” she said, and put her head under her blanket to hide on her bed.
“But,” I replied, “I really feel like we need to know.”
And then Greg and I waited.
And she finally whispered, “It’s the doll.”
Except it wasn’t a sweet whisper.
It was a creepy whisper.
Like something from Children of the Corn.
Or when that kid from the Sixth Sense says he sees dead people.
“It’s the doll, Mom,” she whispered.
And I whispered back, because whispering seemed important, “What doll, baby?”
“Tiffany,” she said.
And I’ve written about Tiffany before. A sweet story about my oldest daughter’s Last Doll. A story that always makes me cry because it’s about the magic of childhood and my baby growing up and passing her doll and the magic along to the littles. It’s all that’s aching and bittersweet about relinquishing childhood. And it’s all that’s beautiful about sisters and brothers who take good care of each other’s hearts.
“What about Tiffany, Aden?” I asked gently, thinking she must’ve cut Tiffany’s hair or colored on her face, and not blaming her, really, for not wanting to tell me. We don’t have a ton of heirloom type toys at our house; we’re hard on the house and the furniture and the toys, so we’re used to things breaking, but we’ve tried hard to keep Tiffany in good condition, and we all tend to treat her like she’s Real.
Aden peeked with one eye out of the blanket and whispered, “She comes alive at night, Mom, and if I open the drawer, even a crack, she comes and stares at me while I sleep. I never, ever open that drawer, Mom, not ever since Abby told me that.”
“Since Abby told you that?” I clarified.
“Uh huh,” she confirmed.
“Abby, your big sister?” I said.
“And how long has Tiffany been in that drawer, Aden?” I asked.
“I don’t know, Mom,” she said. “A long time, I think.”
So I wandered down the stairs to find my eldest.
“AHEM,” I said.
And she said, “What?”
And I said, “Did you, by any chance, tell your little sister that Tiffany comes alive at night?”
Abby started to grin.
“And did you, oh sweet DARLING girl, happen to mention that, if she left her dresser drawer open, Tiffany would crawl from the dresser and stare at her while she sleeps?”
Abby started to laugh.
“And did you, at any point, think to tell her none of that is true?”
Abby, cackling, shook her head no.
“So, then. You WILL, I am SURE, march upstairs and tell your sister right now that you made it all up, yes?”
And Abby, still giggling, said, “Yes.”
And then she said, “Mom?”
And I said, “What?”
And she said, “I told Aden that over a year ago.”
Over a year ago!
For a year – a YEAR – my daughter’s been sleeping with Chucky in her room.
And if that isn’t a sweet, precious, heartwarming story of childhood terror, I don’t know what is.
P.S. Greg, Abby and I all told Aden that Tiffany doesn’t really come alive at night. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t believe us.
P.P.S. I don’t think I believe us, either. Send help.
Tiffany Photoshop Credit: my little brother, Jeff McDonough. He’s proof a younger sibling can withstand torture by an older sister and be marginally functional as an adult.