Let strange flowers bloom

by CJ

It was grisly. The instant I used my husband’s Moroccan slipper to resoundingly thwack a roach, goo splattered everywhere. Legs that just this morning had skittered over apples now lay freed from life on the floor. A disembodied head, feelers still intact, stared with insectish placidity from the wall. Pulpy mass stuck to the shoe.

I shook with loathing for the cockroach, for my violent ways and for Texas having turned me into a killer of bugs. Meanwhile, my toddler observed it all with without a blink.

“What are you doing?” Poppy asked quite reasonably, eyes darting from the Moroccan slipper to the grisly scene of death on the floor. “Oh, nothing,” I replied with as much breeziness as one can muster after murder, “Eat your oatmeal please.” She did.

But I know that this scene will come back to thwack me. You see, I’ve been a parent for two years now and like to think that all my actions disappear down the infant’s telescope of time. Indeed, before Poppy turned one, I marveled at how a baby’s inconstant attention meant that Walter and I could still talk in non-child-proofed ways.

But recently, someone flicked a switch and now nothing is secure. Oh no. Without warning, there’s a disturbing permanence to what that kid does and sees.

Here’s a scary example. Months ago Walter and I took Poppy to a rally at the Texas Capitol so that we could protest the erosion of women’s rights. Like the right-on parents that we are, we coached our toddler to shout: ‘My body, my choice!’. She refused. Instead our independent minded tot chose to stick it to the politicians by trampling on their flower beds. The state troopers were cross. We went home. Time moved rapidly on.

Then, this week — many, many months later — Poppy resisted taking a bath by proclaiming loudly: “My body, my choice!”

Of course, her battle cry was pure, hilarious chance — a phrase grabbed at random from the sack of words she’s been collecting since birth. But how can I relax when I know that that Moroccan slipper is in the sack, along with political slogans and the decayed pineapple I’d discarded behind Walter’s back? Unguarded gossip, un-child-proofed words and all the cringeworthy things I have and will do, are also there and will come back to thwack me.

As Poppy becomes more proficient with words, it’s clear that nothing Walter and I do will ever go away. Instead, seeds planted from our random human exploits will lie dormant in Poppy’s mind. Then, on an ordinary day when we least expect it, our child will open her mouth and strange flowers will bloom. There’s no doubt that much of it will be revealing.

Walter, this is going to be embarrassing.