Exciting episode on Sunday evening.
We’d had a lovely weekend – two trips to the swimming pool, a water-fight in the yard, lots of home-cooked food, the original Muppet Movie… all in all, a very relaxing, family-focused time, just the four of us. Catherine’s bedtime was approaching and as usual we were all crammed on to her bed listening to Christina read out loud. At 7.30 Hallam and I always retire downstairs for port and cigars while the ladies enjoy a moment or two of extra together time before the light is switched off. Only this time, instead of contented quiet from upstairs, a low, keening wail emerged from the bedroom. Christina appeared at the top of the stairs, looking worried. “Catherine can’t find her snoozles,” she said.
For the uninitiated, snoozles are square pieces of heavy white cloth – a kind of miniature version of Linus’s blanket. Hallam has more or less grown out of his, but Catherine still takes hers to bed, sniffing them deeply as if she were a fifteen year-old with her nose in a pot of glue. (She’s recently become increasingly picky about how they’re laundered. Weirdly, she insists that they’re washed with bleach. She says she likes the bleachy smell. I know, right?) Anyway, the lost snoozles were a disaster. Sleep looked unlikely without them. I could hear Catherine gearing up for an almighty fit. We began to tear through the house. I opened every cupboard and looked under every chair and sofa. Nothing. All this time Christina was doing her best to comfort an increasingly hysterical little girl.
After about fifteen minutes of this we had a hasty pow-wow on the landing while Catherine lay face-down on her bed, weeping inconsolably. There were, we agreed, two possible scenarios. Either Catherine had hidden the snoozles somewhere and now couldn’t remember where they were; or her brother – who by his own admission would never pass up an opportunity to torment his sister – had hidden them. The fact that Hallam was quietly sitting on his bed reading immediately made me favor the latter prognosis. I went in to confront him while Chris returned to the sobbing victim to see if she could eke any more clues out of her.
Hallam indignantly denied all knowledge of the affair, and I believed him. He can be mean to his sister sometimes, but he doesn’t lie. Besides, he’s not a good enough actor to pull off the bemused, wide-eyed “But Dad, why would I do that?” with such devastating innocence. Even though it was by now well past her bedtime, we allowed Catherine downstairs to retrace her steps as if she were a witness at a crime scene. (This sorrowful tour of the house involved a close scrutiny of the inside of the fridge, followed by a forlorn, “Not in there.”)
We decided that I would continue to search while the others would try and find a suitable snoozle substitute. Tea-cloths, white T-shirts, and even one of Hallam’s own snoozles were all offered up and summarily rejected on the basis that they didn’t smell right (not bleachy enough.) Meanwhile I searched the cabin, the barn, and the cars. We were growing increasingly agitated at the prospect of an entirely sleepless night. Finally we confronted Catherine again and asked her – for the twentieth time – to remember where she last saw her snoozles. She thought about it. “Maybe on a chair in the dining room,” she mumbled.
I went downstairs. Tucked away out of sight beneath the table were three snoozles. I carried them triumphantly up the stairs. Cue ecstatic reunion between five year-old and her linen. All I felt was relief, but Christina, who on occasion can be a suspicious soul, said, “Catherine, did you know where they were all along?”
Those big eyes squinted out at us from behind a cloud of muslin and she nodded.
It had been an act of sustained mischief, but a brilliantly realized one. Catherine had watched us scramble around the house for 45 minutes, bawling histrionically throughout, when she had known all the time where the bloody things were. I thought of her peering into the fridge and shaking her head with such sorrow. Either my daughter has a glowing career on the stage ahead of her, or she has an ability to believe stuff that she knows not to be true. Right now, I’m still trying to work out which alternative disturbs me more.