“How long is it till 10:00, Dad?” Clara asked while looking at her wrist watch.
“Oh.” I checked the wall clock. “Another 15 minutes.” I said.
She made a note on the pad of paper in her hands and mumbled softly to herself, “one… five…”
I closed my tablet and watched her. “Why are you asking? What happens at 10:00?”
She grinned up at me as she circled the numbers, “Ahh… 10:00 is when our game begins.” She held up a used paper towel roll and rattled it in the air. “You and Mom have to guess what is inside this tube.”
I returned to my tablet. “Um, no. It is way past your bed time already. We don’t have time to play weird guessing games.”
“Nooooo!” she rushed towards me and danced. “Please, just guess! I’ve been working so hard to find things to put inside. Just guess.”
I put my tablet down again and turned to face her. “Okay okay okay. Is it a pencil?”…”No.”…”A sticker?”…”No.”…”A crayon?”…”No!” She was clearly enjoying this. “Is there a lizard in the tube?”…”Nope.”…”A slice of lemon?”…”No.”…”An original copy of the Magna Carta?”…”No!” She danced in a circle and shook the tube above her head and laughed.
“Clara! There could be anything in that silly thing! We don’t have time for another one of your games this evening. I’ll tell you what. We can play it tomorrow. I have the day off from work. Let’s say tomorrow at 10:00, okay? But for now, we have to go to bed.”
She reluctantly agreed and placed the tube on a table in the corner of our bedroom. “Don’t look!” She made us promise.
“Yeah. We aren’t going to look in your tube. Don’t worry.”
And we all drifted off to our usual game of musical beds for the night. Gideon being especially restless as he struggled to sleep with a congested nose. Children wandering from one bed to the other in a dazed stupor. Andrea and I moving from bed to bed to try to calm restless children while at the same time find peace of our own. We woke dazed and lost in our own home, but busied ourselves happily with our Saturday morning.
After breakfast Clara came running into the room, frantic. “It’s already 10:30! We have to play our game!”
Her mother looked at me, “What game is she talking about?”
“Oh. She has a tube on the table there. She stuffed things in it and wants us to guess what they are.”
Andrea picked up the naked cardboard tube. “This?” she asked as items began falling out of it onto the floor.
Clara’s eyes grew wide and she dove onto the scattered debris. “Ack! Mom, stop! Don’t look!” she yelled.
But it was too late. Her mother bent down and angrily wrestled a clear hose out from under the little girl. “Wait a second! This is the part for my suction tool for cleaning out Gideon’s nose.”
Clara stared up at her from the floor. “Is it?”
“Yes! Clara, I spent half the night looking for this… in the dark no less… with a crying baby!”
“Oh.” she said. “What is it again?”
I laughed and rolled backwards onto the bed. “How were we supposed to guess what you had if you didn’t even know what it was?”
She ignored me and began shoving things back into the tube with her back turned. “It doesn’t matter, you still have to guess the rest of the things.”
“No.” Her Mom said firmly. “I don’t care what is in the tube anymore. I’m not guessing.” she started to leave the room.
“Please!” Clara begged. “If you don’t guess soon it’s going to start to rot!”
Her mother paused. I stopped laughing. We both turned and narrowed our eyes at the little girl.
“What’s in the tube, Clara?”
She shuffled her feet anxiously, “I don’t want to tell you. I want you to guess.”
“No more guessing. What do you have?”
“Oh…” She frowned and put her eye up to the end of the tube. “Okay…” She turned it over and shook it a bit to pull something free. “I also have the other half of the cucumber that we had for dinner last night.”
I turned to Andrea, “Well. This has been fun. I’m glad we invited these little weirdo imps into our house, so they could sneak food off our counter and hide it in our bedroom next to important pieces of tools we use to help our children sleep. This is working our very well so far. I’m afraid our Fairy Tale love story is turning out to be less Sleeping Beauty, and more Rumpelstiltskin.”