“Sweetie, honey, it’s past midnight, you need to – “
The word had been spoken. And even though she had been yawning, blinking, and showing every other sign of being ready to make an urgent appointment with the Sandman, Missy was as clear as an Old Testament prophet. She was NOT going to sleep.
This was, needless to say, a tad unusual. Normally, one side effect of Missy’s developmental disability is that routines go over very, very well. And few things are more routine than the Dance of the Missy Bedtime, wherein is laid out the last steps through the bathroom and bedroom, culminating in a bedside storytime, a final hug, and lights-out.
But that night, the dance band couldn’t even strike the opening chords. We’d had a good time together, even a fun time, despite having to explain that even though the neighbors’ decorations were cool, it wasn’t trick-or-treat time yet.
But all of a sudden, advancing to her bedroom was like suggesting we take a walk down the plank of Capt. James Hook. Missy is tiny, but 97 pounds of “No!” has a power all its own. As Master Shakespeare put it once upon a time, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”
And so Heather and I talked, and cajoled, and tried to understand. And as her hands indicated an object on the forehead shooting things out (complete with impressive sound effects), the problem seemed to become clear.
“Missy,” Heather explained gently, “it’s just a weird costume. It’s still the real Scotty. Does Mad-Eye Moody sing old sitcom tunes and leave pop cans on the counter?”
I might have done my job just a little too well.
Those who read the column last week may remember that I was creating a costume of Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, a hard-bitten ally of the good guys who was most notable by his prominent magical eye. Armed with a milk cap, half a ping-pong ball, and an amazing lack of permanent scars, I had constructed a bright blue duplicate, always angled to one side of where I was actually looking.
Missy had been fascinated by the outfit, and especially the eye, examining it and calling Heather’s attention to it when I was away. She’d even made sure that I put it on for one of her own Halloween parties. (Yes, plural. Missy’s social life is far more impressive than my own.)
But apparently, seeing me in it also weirded her out a little. Maybe more than a little. Again, I was reminded that before she fell in love with dressing up as Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins, Halloween used to be an uncomfortable time of year for Missy – precisely because of all the costumes and masks on everyone around her.
When the familiar becomes strange, what can you trust? Is anyone really what they seem to be?
I think many of us could all too easily agree with that one.
Some of us have had trust betrayed. Some have discovered dark sides to beloved figures that make it impossible to see them the same way again. Many of us – maybe all of us? – have been in a situation that we thought we understood, only to have the ground slip away under our feet like a Longs Peak avalanche.
When a false step becomes that painful, it’s hard to walk forward again. To trust. To not wonder what traps are lying beneath. The experience can be valuable to learn from, but can be taken too far – as Mark Twain put it, the cat that sleeps on a hot stove-lid quickly learns not to do it anymore, but she also learns not to sleep on cold ones.
Healing takes time, and love, and friends. Maybe especially that last. In a nightmare, you’re always alone. In the waking world, there can be someone to help.
So Heather and I took the time. The final approach to the bed was made slowly, just an invitation to sit with me and look at some things on my tablet for a while. Finally, surrounded by familiar love and utter exhaustion, Missy was ready to lie back and relax.
Mad-Eye has been put away. He might come out one more time on Halloween, but only well away from the house.
Masks are fun. But some things need to be handled face-on.