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On Writing Technique: Annabelle’s Magic

Last week Trish went to book club which meant that, for just one evening, I had to watch the kids all by myself. It was terrifying.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. They’re astonishingly smart and absolutely adorable, and I have a lot of fun playing with them when I get home from work. But watching them? Taking care of them? Keeping them safe and happy for hours at a time? That’s not my strong suit.

I have a trick, though. Whenever I’m responsible for them for an evening, I drag out that same old trick, and it works every time. So we waved goodbye to Trish, watched her pull out of the driveway and head off down the road, and as soon as she was out of sight we piled into the car and headed to McDonalds.

Getting ’em both fed was still a chaotic challenge, but it ended with a mess that someone else would have to clean up, and I turned the kids loose in the play area to burn the better part of another hour.

The nice thing about that setup is that I wasn’t spending any time worrying about what would come later — whether that was washing dishes or putting away leftovers or figuring out how to entertain the kids. Instead, I spent the whole evening either talking with them, or watching them play. That was fun.

On the drive home, we were doing some more of that talking when Annabelle told me her finger was hurting. She started to cry, “Ow ow ow! It hurts!” and I started trying to figure out what could have happened to her finger while playing at McDonalds.

The promise of a bandaid calmed her down enough to talk, and she told me it had happened earlier. At home. We got home and I applied some Neosporin and a bandaid, and then she danced right off to her bedroom to play.

The next day, I got home from work and Trish said, “Did you see Annabelle hurt her finger?” I nodded, told her the story of it, and she shook her head. “Did you look at it?” she asked. I stared blankly, and she said, “It’s a splinter.”

My heart dropped. Annabelle’s got an awful lot of charms, but sitting patiently through a little home surgery on the pad of her finger wasn’t going to be one of them. We brought her into the kitchen, and Trish started explaining to her what it was.

“A tiny pokey stick, inside my finger?” Her eyes danced, delighted, right up until we started explaining that it really didn’t belong there. And it was going to keep hurting until we got it out.

She jerked her hand out of her mama’s grasp at that, eyes growing wide, and shook her head. “No,” she said. “It’ll be fine.” Then she started to back slowly away, like we were some kind of wild animals. I reached out a hand to calm her, and she turned and sprinted off down the hall, to hide in her room.

So Trish and I exchanged glances. I shrugged. We’d have to deal with it, but we didn’t have to deal with it right then, right? I was tired from a long day at work, and surely it would be a good idea to let the idea sink in a bit before we tried to press the girl on what had to be done. And she didn’t seem to be in a lot of pain….

So I left her playing in her room, left Trish washing the dishes, and I went back to my office to do some Consortium work. An hour or so later I came back to get a drink, and as I was walking toward the kitchen Trish called out a hi to me. Then she said, “Hey Annabelle, tell Dad about your splinter.”

I frowned, curious, and went to meet Annabelle who skipped right up to me, holding her finger proudly aloft. The bandaid was gone. So was the splinter.

“Oh wow,” I said. “Were you a brave girl for Mama? I’m proud of you.”

She shook her head, a big smile on her face. “Nope,” she said. “It’s just gone. I did it.”

I frowned deeper. “How?”

“My magic,” she said. “It even works on my fingers.”

And that was all the answer I got. Magic. It even works on her fingers.

That’s my girl.

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