May 2, 2008

Ring Around the City

My daughter is four and her friend Zed is 3. He was over the other day and they played like they usually do, all over the house. A little tv in the living room, some upper bunk time in my son's room, some action figure exploration, some water play in one of the bathrooms, sometimes they manage to sneak cookies upstairs and I end up vacuuming her bed with one of the funky hose attachments, to get rid of all the crumbs.

At one point the two of them started walking awkwardly across our oriental rug near the kitchen. They were kind of measuring out their steps and holding hands. She announced to all of us (Zed's mom, and several older siblings who were doing homework at the kitchen table) that she and Zed were getting married and we'd all have to yell out 'yip yip yerray,' at the right time.

She mumbled something about 'spitting up flowers,' though she might have meant 'putting out flowers.' Didn't matter, her imagination is pretty vivid and as long as a few of us waved our arms around and said 'flowers flowers flowers' she was pleased. They marched a bit, got distracted by Scooby Doo for a bit, and then remembered to kiss. He sat frozen while she puckered up and moved towards his face in slow motion. She made it to his chin, at which point we all yelled 'Yip Yip Yerray!' My camera was charged, which is rare in off-the-cuff moments like this one, so I even snapped a picture. Very very cute.

Eventually Zed's mom decided to head home to try to make a real meal for her kids. My older daughter went with them (it's the only time she eats vegetables), and my youngest, the new bride, got engrossed in Scooby Doo once more.

I did everything but make dinner. I folded sheets, sorted socks, watched some MSNBC, vacuumed up some more Milano cookie remains. I sat down at my computer to check emails and noticed my skinny wedding band sitting near the keyboard. It was then that I remembered taking both bands off much earlier in the day, during yet another frantic 'calgon take me away' email-checking moment--pretty soon they'll have to change that expression from a watched pot never boils to a checked email never arrives--nothing major going on in email land, but it begs to be checked every time I walk by my computer. Earlier in the day I'd walked home from Manhattan--over the Williamsburg bridge, and I'd gotten caught in a really chilly drizzle. I must have slipped both wedding bands off in an attempt to pare down and warm up, plus maybe my fingers were a bit swollen from all the walking.

So there was my skinny wedding ring--the one my husband and I designed to match his grandmother's engagement ring that he'd given me when we got engaged. I'd long since stopped wearing the engagement ring because I don't do well with jewelry that's pokey or with anything that requires extra thought. I'd managed to snag bathing suits (when did bathing suits start costing $80?) and scratch the cheeks of all of my children, drawing blood at times, forgetting the sharp art deco edges that held the diamond in place. I began to wear his grandmother's own wedding band instead, in addition to the skinny one we made. A thick chunky circle of sunflower-halves that gets much more attention than I could have ever imagined. It's practical, doesn't act like a weapon, and gets along nicely with lycra and nylon.

But it wasn't there.

Honey...I began, realizing that it was going to be hard to get her interested in anything now that she had Scooby Doo all to herself. Honey...I continued. Remember Mommy's shiny special ring?

I was feeling a bit frantic, but had to approach the situation with caution. Kind of like dismantling a bomb. Snip the wrong wire--in this case, reveal how important this is or act too accusatory, and the whole thing might explode.

What Mommy? She looked at me idly out of the corner of her eye.

Well, where do you think it might be? I asked cheerfully.

She shrugged noncommittally. I dunno.

Well, do you think you put it somewhere? A song in my voice--again, cross the line into 'you might be in trouble' territory and I'd lose whatever chance I might have of enlisting her help.

Maybe upstairs? She suggested. Maybe upstairs--but that's too vague. Maybe she's just looking to get rid of me and all this pestering.

Where upstairs? Another shrug. I dunno.

Well...did you put it on?

Shrug/I dunno.

Did you play with it?

Shrug/I dunno.

Could it be under the couch?

Maybe! I check it now, she said slipping under the pulled out futon where she and Zed had spent part of the afternoon. Nope, she said, backsliding out. Not there.

Where do you think it might be, I asked again.

Maybe in Zeddy's pocket?

Zeddy's pocket?

Yep. Maybe in Zeddy's pocket?

Did you put it in Zeddy's pocket?

Shrug/I dunno.

Was she saying this to put the whole thing to rest?--or could she be telling me the truth?

Zed is a pockety kid. He always shows up in blue jeans and several layers of shirts--each of which usually has a pocket somewhere, topped off by a jean jacket. This wasn't very specific. I think his boots might even have pockets.

Which pocket do you think you might have put it in? I asked.

Shrug/I dunno...pause...maybe the blue one.

The blue pocket?

Shrug/I dunno.

I went to the phone and called his mom. They were eating their healthful meal when I called. Zeddy stand up, I heard her say. And then. Yep, here it is. I've got your ring. She put it on the mantel for safe keeping. It was on the mantel in her house eight blocks away, deeper in Brooklyn.

Phew. Huge sigh of relief. The bomb was dismantled--the red digits stopped somewhere just before zero. Of course this was a teachable moment. But how? Should this be the time that I lose it completely and show my child who's the boss? The moment she'll always remember, the one that will make her afraid to go near any of my stuff? The one that might end up being her first vivid memory? Nope. Just a good time to remind my kids that the truth is always best.

I'm not even mad because I'm so happy that you told me the truth, I told her, but frankly I had to compete with the 'and we would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for you meddling kids' moment so I'm not sure she heard me at all.

I picked the ring up a bit later when I went to pick up my other daughter. The mom handed it over to me and laughed nervously. She was almost more freaked out that it had been in his pocket than I was. That she'd been in possession of it, and we might not have ever really found it.

I'm not one of these moms who has fun match-making toddlers--I understand the interest in doing it, but I think it does them a disservice, acting like they're grown-ups to be instead of little kids who are. But it would be awfully convenient if, eventually, she and Zeddy did fall in love and get married. She's already given him her great-grandmother's wedding ring, we've already yelled yip yip yerray. We'd be those kinds of people--the ones with the excellent stories to tell at the wedding.