Wednesday, April 09, 2008

7. Letter from Charlie

The following is a transcript of a typed document that I found one morning, neatly folded, in the corner of Charlie’s cot. I checked the room carefully but there was no evidence of intrusion: the window was still locked, the curtains drawn, etc. Charlie himself seemed in good spirits. He was standing up, asking for breakfast, all in accordance with his usual morning behaviour. There was, however, the faintest pause in his bouncing when I said, “Hey, what’s that?”and reached for the folded document in his cot – and then, too, a slight nod, as of approval, when I opened it and read it. However, almost immediately he resumed his bouncing, now holding out both hands to me, his song taking on the mildly scolding tone that indicates I’m taking much too long.

In the circumstances, I can only conclude that Charlie himself is the author of what follows:

My Dear Mum,

The moon is bright tonight.

That is fortunate. I have slipped from this room, already, once, to borrow this clackety typewriter (from a friend who runs a pawn shop) – and must slip away again, before dawn, to return it. The streets are quiet but my walking is not what it will be. I tip over sideways, on occasion, and, in all honesty, would prefer to maintain my balance by holding both hands aloft. Tricky, when carrying a typewriter.

Hence, the moonlight is a blessing.

I write, now, from my cot, to raise a serious issue.

First, let me say, that New York was an excellent vacation choice. I commend you for it, Mum. Central Park was surely the most comprehensive park we have ever attended. And the squirrels! (So funny.) The spaghetti sauce at Niko’s (on Broadway and 76th) was divine. The cupcakes! Then, too, I think you know how much I enjoyed the New York travel cots. Unlike my own cot here, which has wooden slats, their netted material was perfect for bouncing against. Here, as you probably know, I sometimes wake myself in the middle of the night with a thunk: my head banging against the wooden slats. Not so in New York.

Yes. New York was great.

But, then, directly after New York, there was the trip to Hospital.

Mum. Seriously. What were you thinking?

All right. Anyone can make a mistake. Maybe the brochures were misleading. Five star reviews on It happens all the time: holiday choices go horribly wrong. But once you know you’ve been duped, Mum, you just go home.

Oh, I tried to tell you. I pointed, repeatedly, at the exit door. But no, you kept on believing. I assume you were hoping that things would get better. Your sunny optimism is a virtue, I’m sure, but let’s be honest here: as a holiday choice, Hospital is catastrophic.

I won’t go into details – you were there, you saw it all. But I might remind you that I could not sleep for the incessant beeping of the machines around my bed. Fun during the day, I suppose – I do like beeping noises. But why did they not switch them off at night? Then, too, I suppose all the tubes and gadgets that they attached to me might have been entertaining. But I was not allowed to play with any of it. So what was the point? And that’s even if I had felt like playing which, to be honest, I did not. I felt extremely under the weather for most of the stay – another reason why we should have just packed up and gone home.

And I don’t even want to talk about my thumb. Let’s just say that I had believed that the incident with the flight attendant – insulting the taste of my thumb – was the worst thing that ever could happen to me vis-à-vis it. But to swaddle my hand in bandaging so I could not access my thumb? To put it bluntly, it became very clear to me, around this time, that the only thing I can rely on in this great, big, strange, old world is my yellow blanket.

I do not mean to offend you. I’m sure you were doing your best; I’m sure you genuinely believed that Hospital would be fun.

But that’s exactly why I’m writing this letter: because now I hear we’re going to the Gold Coast.

Look, I know nothing of this Gold Coast. I’ve never been there. Maybe it’s great? Maybe it’s another New York?

But how do we know it’s not a Hospital?

I just don’t think I can take that chance, Mum.

Look, I’m not suggesting that you should be as risk-averse as I am. You want to try the Gold Coast? Go for your life! Go crazy!

But I’d like to stay at home.

Now, please – I know you’re about to dismiss this suggestion – laugh at it, even. “You’re a baby! You can’t stay home alone!” That’s what you’re going to say. I can just hear you.

All I’m asking is that you think about it – that you give it some serious thought.
And when you do, consider this:

I am almost 18 months old. (You keep calling me a ‘baby’ but seriously, am I? A lot of folk would label me ‘toddler’ - or even ‘little boy’?) I know where you keep the food. (It’s in the fridge, right? And the cupboards? If you could move things down to the lower shelves, access would be easier.) I know where the laundry detergent is. (Please remove the childproof locks from the cupboards, though, at your earliest convenience.) So I can do my own laundry. And if you put my favourite Hi-5 DVD on repeat, I won’t need to mess with the tv remote controls.

Starting to seem almost possible? I thought so.

And there's this: in an emergency I can always call on my best friend down the street. She may be a few weeks younger than me but you will recall that she can recite the alphabet, count to twenty, and tell you what the weather’s like (if it’s ‘sunny’).

This letter has gone on long enough. I think I have made my point, and I must get the typewriter back.

I leave the decision – as all decisions – in your hands. I am hopeful.

I thank you in advance,
And remain,



PS And just so you know, when I said, ‘bye bye’ in the stroller the day after we got home the hospital? I wasn’t ‘recalling that I learned to say good bye in the corner store’. No. I meant: enough with the sentimentality about ‘looping’. I meant, get a pair of scissors, cut the nametags off, and take me to the park already.


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