We have been circling the question since October. For months, she has been stepping right up to the edge and then stepping back the moment the conversation turns towards truth. She recently started trying out the word:
She wanted to play a game with me last week. "Eat my foot," she told me. I pretended to eat it and she smiled triumphantly at me. "It was poisoned!" she announced. "You ate my poisoned foot!"
I pretended to choke and sputter my way across the kitchen, dying a Sarah Bernhardt-like death on the titled floor. I lay still with my eyes closed for a moment. The Wolvog jumped out of his chair and kissed my forehead with an intensity that would have broken your heart. "I brought you back with love's true kiss."
Because that is what happens in the fairy tales. With the exception of Bambi and a few parents, princesses die all the time and come back to life with enough love.
Last night, they were taking a bath and the ChickieNob was testing out the word. She was making an animal sponge float in the water. "It looks dead."
"What does dead mean to you?" I asked because we really couldn't avoid the topic any longer.
"It means you're asleep," she answered, almost as if she were also asking if that could be the correct answer.
"Does that mean you die every night?" I questioned.
She laughed and said, "no! You tell me what it means."
"It means your body stops working," I tell her, remembering the numerous times I have practiced Tash's words for this moment. "It means you can't see anymore or hear anymore and your body can't move anymore."
"Like if I ran in the street and a car hit me," she said. Because that is what I always tell her; that there are times a doctor can't fix you. Like if a car hit you and that is why it scares me when she runs towards the street. "Is that the way you die?"
"Or you could be very old. When you get very very old, you die."
She asked if her great-grandmother was dead and I told her that she was alive; we could still see her and talk to her and she still moved about which means that she's alive. And then she broke my heart and looked at me with this full innocence. "But one day, will she die?"
And I had to answer yes because I don't make promises that I can't keep.
She asked if I knew anyone who had died and I told her I knew many people--that is what happens when you grow up, you meet more and more people and sometimes you learn that one of them has died. In fact, I tell her in what I hope is the most matter-of-fact voice in the world, you were named after someone who died. That's what we do in Judaism, we name people after someone who has died.
And then, as quickly as it began, the conversation ended and she went back to pretending to be a mermaid and asked if Marina Del Ray in the new Little Mermaid movie has her ears pierced.
She didn't seem different afterward. I guess I expected that this black chasm would open and suck into it this modicum of her innocence. I thought she would cry or worry that she'd lose me (she already is extremely concerned that pirates will one day take me and I have to explain to her 1000 times a day that pirates would never want me. I'm a nobody, uninteresting. They want mermaids--not frumpy women in sweatshirts with frayed wrists).
But she just flitted around the bathtub after checking in with me that the main ways to die are to get hit by a car, get really old, or eat a poisoned apple. And I agreed; those seem to be the main ways I can think of off the top of my head as ways people die.
Because the truth of it frightens me even if it doesn't frighten her. And I'm so thankful for that. I am just so thankful for that small good thing right now and my heart breaks for the thirty-four-year old ChickieNob who will know too much.