Posts tagged “misconceptions

The Big Ooh

Lately, every night it’s the same thing:

Mommy, close the door,” Jack whines, “So the monsters can’t get in.”

I don’t know where this new fear has come from.  I can’t put my finger on exactly when it started, or what it is that sparked it. All I know is that now it has become routine to make a show of closing the door securely so that Jack feels secure enough to relax into sleep.

I was lying in my own bed, watching the shadows of the passing cars drift across the ceiling, contemplating Jack’s new fear and whether or not it was worth being concerned about, when in a flash,

I recalled The Big Ooh.

I can still see Zeke laying in our bed, his little hands clutching the blanket tightly, where it was tucked beneath his chin, eyes wide and staring.

Mommy,” he would say, in a whisper. “I saw The Big Ooh again.”

We live in a building that is right off of Flatbush Avenue, a busy street in Brooklyn, where it is never truly dark or  completely quiet.  Aaron’s bicycle hangs on a hook near the ceiling and and as the cars rush endlessly by, headlights shine over handlebars and through the spokes of the wheel, creating patterns of light and shadow, which ebb and flow endlessly past.

Zeke watched the shadowy shapes roll across the ceiling night after night, and to him they became something alive:

The Big Ooh.

He was vague on the details of The Big Ooh.  He seemed less frightened by her than intrigued.  He told us that she had red eyes and that he only saw her at night because during the day she was busy “taking care of her children”.

And, with a jolt, I remembered something else too.

When I was a little girl, there were these “people” that lived under my bed.  I wasn’t exactly afraid of them, but I was always very aware of their presence and that awareness made me a little uneasy.  I’m not sure if I ever mentioned them to anyone, but I have very vivid memories of lying awake in bed thinking about them and being almost paralyzed by my profound awareness of their presence. I remember taking deep breaths and resolving to be brave enough to hang my head over the side of my bed and peek down at them.  It would take me a while to summon the courage, and my glances were always brief and breathless.

 They would lie with their backs to me, their stomachs on the floor, heads propped up on their elbows.   They were fuzzy and gray; shadowy. They looked as if they were made of fog and hairballs and dust.  And I knew they were under there, but I also knew that they would never come out.

My memory of them is as vague as their lazy silhouettes were, but they remain one of the oddest and most exhilarating memories that I have, because my rational adult mind tells me that they couldn’t possibly have been under there. But I still remember them.

I saw them.

And I never had an “Aha” moment where I realized that my overactive imagination was spinning dust bunnies or lost socks into mysterious lethargic beings.  Their presence was never explained away, and I can still remember the way they looked, the way I saw them as a child.

I have since asked Zeke about The Big Ooh and he has no memory of her at all.  I suppose that whatever Jack imagines is lurking behind the door will fade away too.

And as they grow and their childhood fears disappear, so too will the world where magic is possible.  Danger will be all too unavoidably real and even a door that is firmly shut will not make them feel safe.

As their mom, I desperately want to protect them from any and all danger, and to keep them safe within my tight and reassuring grasp.  

But there is a part of me that wants them to hold on to the indistinct creatures of the night, somewhere deep inside, even if they can’t really believe in them anymore.

To remember that once, you believed.

That is a gift.



Kids frequently substitute familiar words for words they don’t know, with amusing results.
A couple of memorable examples from our home:

Zeke has been under the impression, for some time now, that the game kids play, where everybody hides and someone has to try and find them, (you know the one), is called Hide and Zeke.  Every time this classic children’s pastime comes up, he mishears it this way and I am thoroughly tickled anew. I am in no hurry to correct him.

Zeke has a favorite book by William Steig, called Zeke Pippen.  In it, a pig named Zeke finds a magic harmonica in the street, leading to exciting misadventures.  We’ve read this book countless times without any apparent misapprehensions, but one afternoon, after reading a sentence, that is non-essential plot-wise, about Zeke (the pig) cleaning his harmonica with his father’s schnapps, Zeke (the boy) stopped me, confusion all over his face.

“Mom,” he said. “How could Zeke Pippen clean his harmonica with his father’s snots?”

I could see from his perplexed look how completely boggled this had him and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. (I mean the concept of someone using their father’s snots as a disinfectant is preposterously disgusting! It’s no wonder my boy was at a loss!)

This sort of misconception is one of the precious gems of parenthood.  They are amusing, repeatable moments handed to you here and there, providing breaks of utter amused delight amidst all of the usual chaos and poop.
Some misconceptions, however, take you completely by surprise and leave you struggling to find your bearings….

We were in line at K-dog, our neighborhood coffee shop.  Jack was asleep in the stroller, Zeke fidgeting at my side, when he says to me, completely out of the blue,

“Mommy? Is Stanley all wet?”

Stanley.  He was our first baby, a mischievous Lab mix, that Aaron and I adopted in college.  He was 12 when Zeke was born, and not terribly interested in or pleased with the new addition to our family.
Zeke, however, loved him unconditionally.  He endlessly attempted to lure Stanley into games, frequently threw his arms around Stanley’s broad neck in an enthusiastic toddler embrace, and collapsed in giggles whenever Stanley covered his face in slobbery kisses.

In a show of spectacularly unfortunate timing, Stanley became very ill and needed to be put to sleep just days after Jack came home from the hospital.  The combination of elated joy at the birth of our new son and extreme bereavement at the loss of our sweet companion, left Aaron and I simultaneously fragile and numb.  On the same Thursday morning, I took Jack and Zeke to Jack’s very first check-up, and Aaron carried Stanley, wrapped in an old green towel, to his last.
I will never forget the note of confusion in Zeke’s voice when we arrived at home after the check-up, as he called out to his dog,


It was the first time in his brief life that he hadn’t been greeted immediately by the click-click-click of Stanley’s claws on our hardwood floors.  That confused anticipation left me cold for weeks, until eventually Zeke stopped looking for his dog.  It was so hard. Though I knew full well that Stanley was no longer with us, part of me was expecting to hear him there too.

At some point we told Zeke that Stanley died and that he wouldn’t be coming back. Zeke never questioned this, so we considered the matter pretty much closed.  Though every so often there would be a question:

“Mommy? Is Stanley all wet?”

No one wants to be confronted unexpectedly with emotion, not in public, not before you’ve had your coffee.  And completely at a loss for what exactly my son was talking about, bargaining for time, I asked him to repeat himself, though he’d spoken quite clearly.

“Is he all covered in bubbles Mommy? Can we get a boat and go get him and bring him home?”

I’m sure my voice shook a little bit as I asked, in a false overly cheerful voice, “What are you talking about honey?”

“From when he dived Mama.  Is he all wet?  Could we get a boat and bring him home?
Would that be a good idea?”

Tears welled in my eyes. I was overwhelmed.  The realization that all this time, my little boy had imagined his beloved dog swimming around in the water somewhere.  It was too much.

“No sweetie,” I said, my voice virtually a whisper. ” I think he’s having a really good time where he is.”

My mind whirled.  Did I owe him a more concrete explanation?  Was it my responsibility as a parent to be honest with him? No, I finally decided.

Three is just way too young to find out that
death is no day at the beach.