The Great Pretender (or at least, a pretty good one)

“And thank you God for Bella being a good girl and a good puppy.  Amen,” was the end of grace tonight.  I got licked as I left the room.

I had to address my children as domesticated animals in order to get them to respond to my requests to go to bed.

Bella, being seized by some generous and benevolent character shift, brought out her extra Cinderella dresses (what?  you don’t have those?) so that the two neighboring children could join her in being princesses this afternoon.  (Let the record show that Bella, and ONLY Bella, was Rapunzel.)

Last week was Malcolm’s first at his new school and one afternoon I watched his class walking back to the pick up area, Malcolm weeping in a Victim of Injustice kind of way– a boy did not believe him that he saw a Transformer, that they were REAL.  Mid-explaination of the story, he wrenched his hand from mine and started flailing about, eyes wide with vindication, and pointing to an otherwise unremarkable car driving past us from the parking lot.  “SEE!  THERE HE IS!  LOOK!  LOOK!”  And there it was, an Autobot decale on the back bumper.  He turned back to the offending boy, who had since been brought before Mal to apologize for making him cry.  “Did you see? I told you.  I.  TOLD.  YOU.”  The little boy just stood there looking at my son.  “But,” his eyes darted from Mal to me, “Transformers aren’t real.”  He smiled cautiously.  Right, Adult Woman?  I smiled back at him.  I looked down at Mal, his shining, righteous little face beaming up at me.  “Well,” I said still smiling like my life depended on it, “I did see an Autobot symbol.”

“But they’re not real,” the child persisted.

“YES, they are!”

You can imagine how quickly I hustled us out of there, citing Bella–who’d also been watching this trial unfold–as our excuse, rest time, you know, must be getting on…

On the drive home it really started to bother me.  Did that little boy believe in Santa, or was being 5 now too old to enjoy the thrill of nonsensical possibility?  All manner of scenarios immediately scrolled through my mind, all of which ended in me effectively–yet kindly–shutting down the little punk.  My favorite was the one in which I implied that perhaps said little boy wasn’t one the Transformers chose to reveal themselves to, oh so sad for you, etc.

Who does that?

Me.  I do.  And why?  Cuz about 64 percent of the time I myself am living in some sort of alternate ending version of my own life.

Example:  This hotel we are living in.  It is a prewar sort of place, and not in the fun way.  When we first opened the door and looked around, the scene from The Right Stuff came to me–the one where Mrs. Gus Grissom is presented with the depressing apartment across from the worst beach in the state, etc etc and poor Gus is like, “Hey look!  They filled the fridge for us.  That’s nice!”  And then she almost disembowels him.

Yeah.  Anyway, so as I walked through to the bathroom with a very Army toilet my survival instincts kicked in.  And my survival instincts consist of a rolodex of time periods I’ve always found romantic or desirable.  So.  Hawaii.  Army.  Prewar building.  I’m in the 1940s.  I’ve got the victory roll hair goin’ on.  I’m even actually wearing the red lipstick.  Pearl Harbor is down the road.  Palm trees swaying above us, the huge darkening clouds behind them.  Those cool sensible shoes with the heel and seamed stockings.  This is where I am.  Done.

It has always been thus.  Being sent to my room as a child was never a punishment.  You’re sending me to my own private world and you’re going to leave me alone for a long time?  That’s fantastic.  I was already planning to take the sheets off my bed and fashion a toga out of them so that I could reenact Quo Vadis.  Jewelry.  I needed to seriously think about the jewelry…  WWII was always a favorite though.  The Guns of Navarrone?  Is there anything sexier?  Not when you’re in middle school and have been raised on a steady diet of classic movies.  Only, I would be the double agent hot girl who changed her ways at the last moment, became a good guerrilla fighting girl who could marry Gregory Peck and NOT get her ass shot.  That last part was vital.

When we lived in Germany there was a castle ruin right up the street from our house.  I could walk there.  I did, frequently.  It was quiet and cold and windy and slightly creepy.  I loved it.  It was just walls and empty window arches.  A few steps.  All completely overgrown and glorious.  I went there immediately upon finding out Sam would be deploying to Iraq in 2005.  I lived there now.  This was my chamber.  Out of this window, I could see the town below.  My fireplace was right here.  I was warm and cozy.  The candles were flickering.  I could hear the voices of the men folk in the great hall.  Maybe I would go there, stand by the enormous fireplace that I could stand in if I wanted to.

But then I’d get really cold and let’s be honest, freakin’ hungry, so I’d have to go home.  But I’d be fortified.

So, when do I tell Malcolm that Transformers are not technically real?  Is it more harmful to crush his belief in something he loves to believe, or to let him go on believing and proclaiming it to be true to other people who will shut him down?  Will he just grow out of it?  Should I stop getting excited when I see the decals?  I am responsible for this because I let it happen.  When he asked if they were real, and he did ask me, I said maybe.  If I said “no” I felt like a terrible soul crushing mother.  If I said “yes” I felt like a terrible liar mom.  I don’t want to be either of those.  I want to be a mama who can believe it’s fun to pretend.  Forever.  And if Mal can’t have Transformers, can I still have my 1940s shoes?

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