He sat on the couch, still in his work clothes, and pulled out a little package from his front pocket, “Girlie, come here.” In his hands, he held a golden embroidered pouch. It reminded me of a change purse I had as a young girl, that I filled with pennies.
The night before last, he’d shared with me that his coworker had overheard him and I discussing, over the phone, the lack of sleep that we were getting because of the nightmares that Girlie was having. It’s been a topic of conversation for the last couple of weeks; Either we’re being woken up several times in the middle of the night, or we’re having our bed taken over in the middle of the night by Girlie (which doesn’t bother me so much, really. It’s her sprawling and splaying out that does me in). All of us are really exhausted, physically and emotionally.
His coworker asked to speak with him privately, and told him her story. One that was similar to our daughters. One that matched the same reactions of certain family members who are/were more concerned with their own reputation. He listened, and told me later that he always felt completely out of his element when hearing stories like hers, and like our daughter’s. “She’s always going to remember this, isn’t she?” He asked me this later when he relayed the story to me, his face worn with concern, peaks of anger breaking through in the words he was using to describe what he was told. I nodded, quietly, feeling the same sinking feeling that a parent endures when they feel as though they failed at protecting their own child.
During this exchange, my husband’s coworker offered to bring in something she’d used to help her sleep. She said it was something that she used as an older child to help keep the nightmares at bay, and while she wasn’t sure it worked so much it was a comfort to have something to put her faith in as she fell asleep for the night. The next day, she presented my husband with the golden pouch he now held in his hand.
“This is a gift from a coworker for you. She wanted you to have it. ” The last couple of words caught in the back of his throat and I could tell from my position across the room that he was more than overwhelmed. His eyes searched for mine, silently asking me for some help, so I jumped in,
” Sweetie, bring that here, let’s have a look.” Girlie held the pouch gingerly in her hands, and tiptoed across the carpet in our living room until she was standing in front of me. I carefully opened the clasp, and unzipped the small zipper uncovering three rocks, all in different sizes, colors and shapes.
“These are pretty! Don’t you think?” Her eyes lit up excitedly, and she took each rock in her small hand, tracing it, “What is it, Mama?”
“Well, these are magic stones, I think. Daddy has a friend at work who wanted you to have them. She had something bad happen to her too, just like you.” We don’t have to say his name anymore, although, she does when she’s looking for reassurance that we’ll never see him again. We just have to mention the “bad thing”, and she knows. Sadly.
“Someone hurt her too?” she asked quietly, almost shocked. I could tell she thought, like so many of us do, that she was the only one.
“Yes. They did. And you know what? There were people who didn’t believe her too.”
Her eyes went wide, still clutching the three stones in her hand. ” That’s not nice!”
“It’s not, but you know what else? She also had bad dreams just like you. To help her sleep, she used these magical stones. Every night, she put them under her pillow. She wants you to have them now.”
I watched as my daughter traced her fingers along the outsides of the rocks, thinking deeply,
“What do they do?”
I had no idea, so on the spot, I picked those stones out of her hand, and made up the magic powers they held.
“Well, this little one? It helps you fall asleep nice and quick at night. This white one? It’s to help you have nice long, peaceful rests with good dreams. And this one, you see how it’s sort of clear? Well, it traps all the bad dreams in it.”
She was in awe it seemed, of these special magical stones. Wiping her blond hair out of her face, she put each stone back into the pouch, zipped it back up and closed the clasp before she held it tight to her heart.
“Oh, I just love them!”
Before we could discuss it any further, she scurried away to show her new stones to her brother. Later that night, after the kids had been tucked into bed, I head the padding of tiny feet in the hallway. In her hands was a piece of paper, and she thrust it into my lap,
“This is for Daddy’s friend. I want her to have it because she doesn’t have her rocks anymore and I want her to be able to sleep still.” On the picture were her renditions of the rock, surrounded by hearts and two girls holding hands.
“Who is that?” I asked her, pointing to the two girls.
“That’s me and Daddy’s friend. We’re holding hands because we had something bad happen to us, and we understand the bad dreams.”
Even if those stones aren’t really magic, and they aren’t really, they have given her something more incredible: The sacred solidarity of knowing she’s not alone, and that there are others out there who understand her bad dreams.