The Grinch Who Stole Childhood

Note to readers: Your correspondent has fallen a bit behind as a blogger in the last few months, due to the tumult surrounding a cross-country move. Watch for a burst of posts in the next week or so.

Dubsie and PodAn announcement, in case it’s not already known: Dubsie and Mummy and I are moving from Washington, D.C. to Seattle.

Moving sucks, of course, as it must when you’re stowing an entire family’s belongings into boxes and bubble wrap, but this is my first move that involves a child. I have become aware of the particular misery that the process inflicts upon a two-year old.

Dubsie sat on the stairs as I dismantled our first-floor baby gate. “What are you doing, daddy?” she asked.

“I’m taking this apart because we are moving to Seattle,” I replied. We’ve told her about the relocation a million times. She doesn’t understand it even a little bit. No surprise there: asking a toddler to comprehend leaving the only home she’s ever known is like expecting a chimp to do algebra. Add to that impenetrable idea the fact that the place we’re moving from and the one we’re moving to are both called Washington. Where do you live? we ask. “Washing DC,” she replies. Where are you moving to? “Washing DC,” she says.

Back on the steps, Dubsie said, “I want to stay here in Washing DC.”

“You could,” I said slowly, “but Mummy is moving to Seattle. And I am moving to Seattle. You don’t want to stay here all by yourself, do you?”

Dubsie looked back at me blankly. The prospect of moving and the prospect of being alone being equally impossible.

Crying fits come all the time this week, as the fixtures of daily existence disappear around her: the couch, the coffee table, the art on the wall. The place where the easy chair was is now a Tetris stack of UHaul boxes. She swings open the pantry door to find empty shelves; her dolls and piano and her collection of frogs are consolidated into crates, and then the crates vanish. Deny her the smallest of things, even a Chapstick tube, and we’re in for a fit. First she scrunches her face and her lips draw back into a painful rectangle, and she flaps her arms as a gale of blubbering is unleashed.

As I race toward the finish, clearing the rooms bare, I begin to feel like the Grinch Who Stole Childhood, who slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant, around the whole room and took everything present. Hampers! And blankets! Bicycles! Drums! Bookshelves! Houseplants! Guitars! And Rugs!

Dubsie whimpers every time she glimpses the perspiring, hurried forms of me and Mummy going up and down the stairs. To avoid trauma we sequester her and her sitter in Dubsie’s bedroom, which is now denuded of all toys and other diversions. The crib is gone; all that remains is a mattress, and then in the last moments before the doors close, even that.

bedroom pano


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