Rain. It seemed as if it had been raining forever. It was nearly a year ago. Our then four-year-old daughter, Jacqui, sat plastered to the window, watching the relentless raindrops pound the soil in our front yard.
“Mom, can we go splash in da puddles?”
I peeked around the corner from the kitchen and glimpsed the black clouds and rain-spattered window panes. “No. It’s too cold and rainy outside.”
Jacqui looked at me with all the incredulity that my absurd comment deserved. “But Mom, if dere wasn’t rainy days outside, dere wouldn’t be no puddles to splash in.”
True. And I should have listened, but I had a dozen stuffy reasons to stay inside: It was wet. Too cold. Too much trouble. To Jacqui, my excuses meant one thing: Boredom. In the hands of a child, boredom can quickly escalate from pleas for relief, to unbridled silliness, to full-force, category five, cabin-fever hurricanes.
The storm struck the next morning with devastating force, just before my alarm was set to go off.
For some reason, I found myself dreaming that Ken and I were painting some un-identified room of the house. In my dream, he kept grabbing my feet and painting the bottoms of them with green paint. I twitched in my sleep, groggily mumbling at him to knock it off, but he just giggled like a little girl and proceeded to paint my unwilling feet green. Somewhere in my dream, I realized he was not giggling like just any little girl, but a particular one. I heard the giggle again and was suddenly wide awake. I found myself abruptly sitting up and something compelled me to look at the bottom of my feet as our first born ran shrieking from the room clutching a black sharpie marker. My feet were not green. Jet-black scribbles met my stupefied gaze. As my level of consciousness increased, it occurred to me that our child had seemed to be strangely dressed. After checking to make sure they were dry, I stepped into the hallway with my freshly inked soles. A quick perusal of the premises revealed widespread destruction and I attempted to mentally catalog the damage, beginning with Jacqui’s room…
All of the bedding was missing from Jacqui’s bed, which I found oddly disturbing. All of the clothes from the top rack of her closet lay scattered about her bedroom floor amidst numerous snapped off plastic hangers. Her toy tea table was placed in the center of the room, covered in towels from the linen closet. Jacqui was dancing and singing on top of the table, wearing a pair of pants with the waistband pulled down around her head like a hat. And that is all she was wearing. Unless you count what appeared to be an entire box of Dora The Explorer Band-Aids and the better part of one of my tubes of lipstick. As she danced, she sang a Backyardigan’s song that I had only just managed to get out of my head somewhere around three am that morning. I was unfortunately then doomed to have the wretchedly cheerful little ditty echo relentlessly through my skull for the remainder of the day.
Closer inspection of the tea table revealed the purpose of the mountain of towels flung over the table’s top. They were intended as a decoy to distract me from the fact that the table had been scribbled on with bright pink high-lighter. Apparently the dancing and singing was meant to distract me from the towels, as it nearly did. Nearly. I left the room noting that the chair to the tea table was missing.
Down the hall I could see that our new Christmas kitty had been busy with one of her favorite toys. An entire roll of toilet paper. I peeked in the bathroom. Wrong. Only half a roll. The other half was in the flushed toilet which had flowed over onto the floor. Wrong about the Dora Band-Aids too. She wasn’t wearing the whole box. The toilet seat, sink and mirror were wearing a few too. The missing chair was in the bathtub for reasons unknown. Down the hall, I found that the missing bedding had been launched into the stairwell… also for reasons unknown.
In the living room I discovered that the Christmas kitty had found a new favorite toy. One of Jacqui’s dress-up feather boas. The entire living room floor looked like the scene of very serious crimes against an entire flock of rare pink marabous. The kitty, however, was no-where in sight. Yet another disturbing development. I continued my appalled perusal and discovered that apparently, someone had been licking the living room windows and the patio door, and yep – the hallway mirror. Again. Beyond disturbing.
On the dining room table, a mysterious line-up of six stuffed toy kittens in a perfectly straight row awaited me. They sat motionless and glassy-eyed, staring out over the entire mess. An odd juxtaposition of order against the surrounding unfathomable chaos. What were they waiting for, I wondered? Mug shots?
Another line-up greeted me in the kitchen. Four open bottles of finger paint in a neatly arranged row on the kitchen counter. The kitchen floor was not so pristine. It had apparently suffered a recent attack by paint-slinging chimps. Chimps with a fondness for Dora Band-Aids, judging by the smattering of them stuck randomly among the paint splotches.
A clean-up, of sorts, had been thought of. A paint covered bar of soap lay near a smeared edge of the primate paint renderings. With an inward groan, I remembered seeing the chair in the bathtub and recalled the high ledge that the soap usually rests on as I experienced the beginnings of heart palpitations. At that very moment, the monkey ring-leader appeared in the doorway, and I heard myself ask, “Jacqui! Why on earth did you do this?”
She replied with a hand on her hip, still sporting the same scandalous outfit, “Dis isn’t Earf, Mom. Dis is Jacqui’s House!”
I rubbed my forehead. “I didn’t ask you where we live, I asked you why you did this.”
She shrugged and gave me a wide-eyed, innocent look and said, “I just don’t know Mom.”
We were interrupted by muffled mewing. I had almost forgotten the missing kitty! She was in the stairwell, trapped under the no-longer-missing bedding like a tuna in a gillnet.
I sat down on the stairs, rubbing my temples, conflicted by the simultaneous urge to indulge both in frustrated tears and hysterical laughter, when I heard Jacqui’s small voice behind me.
“I wanted to paint you a pretty picture, Mommy.” she said, “But I couldn’t find da paper.” She tilted her head, causing the pant legs to slide comically over one eye as a tear slid out of the other. And I couldn’t help it. I laughed. Then I remembered my busy and detached responses of the day before and sighed. This day would be different, I decided.
I reached over and wiped the tear away. “How about we clean up this mess together and we find some paper to put your picture on?” She grinned and clapped her hands. “But first, lets put on our raincoats and go outside.”
I let out a giggle as she shrieked joyfully down the hallway in a flurry of flapping pant legs and brightly colored Band-Aids. I recalled Jacqui’s youthful wisdom from the day before: Without rain, there would be no puddles to splash in. And I vowed that the next time it rained I would be ready. I would be grateful for the rain clouds and meet life’s puddles with the child-like joy they deserved… with a stomp and a giggle, and a box of Dora Band-Aids.