Chicken Little is fearless. She simply always has been. When she was two, during a screening of one of the Ice Age flicks, and as her big sister was climbing my person in fear in a way which suggested she hoped to return to the womb, Little clambered upright on her seat and hollered, “I not afraid of that T Rex!”
The rest of us can work up a sweat about the tiniest thing. But Little—nope. I can think of possibly three things that have induced fear in her, and I’m pretty sure she was faking it about the spider.
Not long ago, the preview for the film Frankenweenie (dog comes back to life, a la Frankenstein) reduced Noodle to nightmares, inability to sleep in her own room alone, and even a trip to the school counselor. We thought we’d put that one to rest until we three girls went to the movies a few weeks ago. During the last of the previews, when we were all munching popcorn and no one was really thinking about what might visit our psyches next, up on the screen appeared the opening seconds of the Frankenweenie trailer.
Noodle’s head whiplashed my way: her eyes looked at me, wide-eyed and alarmed. My head tennis-matched back and forth between my children—a mother’s dilemma.
Reading my mind, Little shrugged. “I’m fine.” So I flat abandoned her, scooped Noodle, and ran for the lobby, where the two of us remained, clutching each other and muttering reassurances about make-believe and that-won’t-ever-happen-to us, for the duration of Weenie’s exploits in trailer format.
Then we rushed back inside to rescue Little, age 5, who had endured the whole nightmare alone.
She was eating her popcorn, totally nonplussed.
So today, when I found her halfway to heaven up a tree in the park, I wasn’t really surprised. Still, I’d spent six hours on an article, I had a splitting headache, she was up high enough that my head felt like it might fall off backward from peering up at her, and I wasn’t really in the mood for any thrill-and-chill type shenanigans.
“Little,” I called. “Too high.” She amused me for a moment by dropping a branch or two before nimbly heading back to the sky. “Little,” I said wearily. “No ER.”
That’s our code for ‘avoid danger.’ Sometimes, when Captain Daddy’s on shift, we just say, “No Daddy.” Translation—as much as we love papa, let’s not find ourselves necessitating a call to 911 and the services of an ambulance just because it would be nice to see him.
But Little just kept on heading up.
I gazed skyward, noting the strong branches of the cedar, perfect for climbing, and the cerulean sky above, perfect to climb towards. I noted Little’s strong, sure climbing skills.
I wavered. Little sensed it. She peered down at me, made eye contact.
“Mom,” she said kindly but confidently, as if she were the parent and I the child. “Be brave about me.”