Before I draw nearer to that stone, tell me! Are these the shadows of things that must be, or are they the shadows of things that MIGHT be?
~ Ebenezer Scrooge, speaking to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Every once in a while, Brooke shows us the little ghosts of her Christmases past. An old behavior or routine that has long since faded out (or been painstakingly replaced) will rear its little head as if to say, “Hey, remember this? Remember when she used to do this ALL the time? Remember this phase that you tore your hair out over thinking it might never end? Or when you agonized over the thought that your sweet girl may never have the tools to overcome the constant frustration that caused this to happen?”
Last night, Brooke asked for some blueberries after dinner. I washed what was left in the container and explained to her that I was giving her all the blueberries that we had as I emptied them into her bowl. She scampered off to eat her stash, happily shrieking as she did.
As soon as she had finished them, she asked for more.
I explained (again) that she had eaten them all. I told her we’d get some more on our next trip to the grocer.
She asked for more.
I showed her the empty container, reminding her that they were all gone.
She asked – anxiously – for more.
Still displaying the empty container, I used the phrase that had been reinforced at school. “They are not available.”
She asked – angrily – for more.
I could see her getting agitated. Her shoulders were creeping up toward her chin. Her little body was tensing up.
I offered replacements. I held up grapes, bananas, a clementine. I reminded her to stay calm, take a deep breath.
I watched her helplessly as she lost control. Her eyes were pleading, confused. Her breathing was quick and shallow. She was making the loud hooting noise that she makes when words escape her (or, as they had here, just don’t seem to be working).
And then I saw it. The Ghost of Christmas Past. Like a little plaintive bird, she opened her mouth and desperately pointed into it. She made the awful, heart wrenching noise she used to make to signify hunger, jabbing her tiny finger into her open mouth again and again. It always looked to me like she was literally starving when she did that.
Seeing her back there – wordless, confused, desperate to be understood – was awful. I felt like I’d been hit with an anvil to the chest. Those imploring little eyes had haunted me for so long.
I felt a presence at my shoulder. The Ghost of Christmas Present chuckled a little. “We don’t see much of this around here these days do we?” he asked. A good point, sir. We surely don’t. “It’s pretty well out of character for her now that she has all of these glorious words that she can use at will.” He smiled at the Ghost of Christmas Past, who was shuffling his way through the back door. He then settled into a cozy spot by the fire.
Brooke calmed down with some help. She had a popsicle. Sugar free. Juice sweetened. What? Shuddup. Eventually we headed upstairs and settled in for the night. As I left her room, I passed a shadowy figure in the hall. I’d never seen him before.
He smiled and winked and said, “See you in a while. Trust me; you have a lot to look forward to.”