for  Twinkle


By  Dwight  Bernard  Mikkelsen

Unpacking.  In a hotel room.  Again.  I wonder about the validity of the activity: why not just leave everything in the suitcase and use the drawers of the cheap dresser for my dirty laundry instead of the other way around?  It makes sense but I don’t do it; something about impropriety or being a good guest or, oh, I don’t know.  I just keep unpacking.  My hand brushes against something hard under the sweatshirts.  I don’t actually think about it, it just sort of hangs on the fringes of my consciousness while I hang up my pair of dress-up jeans.  Grabbing my dress-up gym socks, I feel it again.  I don’t remember putting anything hard under my sweatshirts.

It was another out of town gig.  I love the work and the atmosphere but, geez, not being with my kids for three weeks is tough.  During the drive, I think about Jasmine, my youngest.  She was sad to see me go but we managed to spend couple of very fun hours together before I left.  We were in her room looking over this huge collection of stuffed animals she has.  It started in an orderly fashion – pull one animal out of the chest, “What’s its name?”, “What’s it like to eat?”, talk about it, joke with it, put it aside, then another animal, then another and another–when, without warning, she picks up the chest and pours all the remaining animals on my head. I flail my arms and legs and yell, “HEEELP!” as if I’m drowning.  She jumps on the pile (I’m on the bottom of it) and we laugh uncontrollably.  Later, as I’m leaving, she gives me at least a dozen hugs – she always does that – gets Philo, our dog, has me hug him a few times and then gives me one more, very long steel-grip hug: amazing how a little girl can be so strong.

I arrive at my destination, get a tour of the studio, get briefed on the project, and find out exactly what I have to do.  I finally get to my hotel room around 8:30pm and decide to call home before I unpack.  Jasmine gets on the phone and I tell her I still feel like I’m drowning in teddy bears.  She laughs but, in a way, seems a little anxious about something.  I bring up some of the usual parent-teaching-his-kids-the-so-very-important-basics-of-life subjects: brush your teeth?; get some reading in?; help your sister with the dishes?  But she’s not really listening.  Abruptly she asks, “Have you unpacked?”  Hmm … odd question.  I tell her I just got to my room and called immediately, that I haven’t even opened my suitcase.  Inexplicably, she’s relaxed with that easy giggle of hers.  We talk some more, avoiding all that boring parent stuff, and lament how much we miss each other.  Finally I say, “Okay … well, I guess I’ll be goin’.  I love you.”  “I love you too, Daddy.”  “Okay, I’ll call tomorrow.  Sleep well.”  “You sleep well too, Daddy.  I love you.”  “I love you too.”  “I love you too.”

So what is this thing, this hard thing, hiding in my suitcase?  I lift up my sweatshirts and see a plain white cardboard box.  I open it and find this note:

For a long time, I just sit there looking at it.

I finish unpacking, take a shower and get dressed for bed.  I hang the glow-in-the-dark-to-remember-me moon from the bottom of the hanging lamp next to the front door; her picture and the tuft of Philo fur go on the night table; I drape her lucky necklace over the lamp shade; I set the box on its side and put the note in it so it faces the bed.  I eat a few sunflower seeds.  I climb under the covers but before falling asleep, I notice the glow-in-the-dark-to-remember-me moon is smiling at me.  Deep in its faint light I see a pure heart.

copyright © 1996  NotesLinger Arts

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