by Eve Vawter
Once upon a time I was a queen. I was beautiful and brilliant and my arms held everything magical — scented with rose petals and soft and welcoming, the safest and warmest place you have ever rested your head. I was the consummate shoebox architect, erecting skyscrapers and runways for the scrummage of blond-haired plastic dolls your fat little hands thrusted at me, writing elaborate soap operas for them that we enacted until it was time to cut your sandwiches into carefully art-directed hearts and flowers that I presented to you while you waited to be offered a box of juice, the straw inserted and its plastic wrapper discarded.
And then we read, every single book of the poky puppies and the little lost ducklings and the cats in hats. Until you fell asleep next to me, your warm, sweet breath against my neck, your arm flung over my stomach, and my own arm cramping from the weight of your tiny skull.
I never moved.
I never even flinched.
And we did this for 12 years. Until you gave me that look over sloppy joes and tater tots. It was just one look, that withering, dismissive, eye-rolling look, and it was over.
Only other mothers with their 12-year-old and 11-year-old and 13-year-old daughters know this look. The look of death. OK, sure, maybe that's a bit dramatic — but stay with me here.
Actually, you don't have to stay.
You go up to your room with your Netflix password and your Pretty Little Liars and your video calls with your friends and your 21 Pilots songs and I'll stay here with the rest of the witches and the evil stepmothers because they are my people now. The mothers who were once queens who ruled the land before we were banished to the basement and the attic and the forest of prickly thorns with just one look. That look that says that Mom is no longer the queen of every domain, including her daughter's heart, body, and soul. That look cast down upon every mom who made a dumb dinnertime joke, or asked an annoying question, or suggested that their princess eat some of their green beans. The rest of the witches know this look.
Your father, still the king, doesn't understand because even though he was here and partook in his own rituals with you, the running of baths and the bandaging of scraped knees, and the endless chauffeuring to birthday parties, he did not feel your tiny, razor sharp teeth gnaw around a nipple or feel his fingers cramp from braiding your hair. It;s totally different for moms. He reminds me as only a king can that you are growing up and this is all normal. I get all that blah blah blah but I would rather surround myself with the rest of the witches and brew a spell to make you come back to me.
And I know you will.
Your grandmother, once a queen herself, reminded me that if you never gave me the look, or the slammed door, or the Sorry Mom, I made plans with my friends, I would never ever ever let you leave — if you stayed as madly, as passionately, and as completely in love with me as you were at age 4, I would lock all the doors and throw away the keys and you would never go to school. Or prom. Or college. Or anywhere ever forever. This is all normal shit.
But I'm so scared.
I'm so scared I haven't taught you enough. I haven't reminded you to stay true to your heart and be strong and fierce. The world is full of wolves and vultures thrusting sticky lip gloss and pharmaceuticals and push-up bras and the wage gap and heartbreak and the diet industry and Botox at you. It would be so much easier to lock you in the cellar, in the attic, at the bottom of the well, in a tower.
I know this is selfish. I'm not going to lock you anywhere. I will let you be a butterfly and set you free and all that bullshit. I know you will come back to me, and if I am patient and understanding and strong you will love me almost as much as you did before you realized that even the most regal of queens have a regal pile of flaws and that we tell dumb jokes and ask stupid questions and nag nag nag.
I knew the look was coming.
I still wasn't ready for it.
But you can come back to me — I'll be in the cellar with the rest of the witches. With our greying hair and our chipped tooth and our stories of when our princesses were young and how they loved us happily ever after.