“All right H-, tonight’s going to be a bit different. I’m going to cook you some broccoli, which you’ll eat here, then we’ll go to the restaurant.”
“No, I feel like a burrito, so no McDonald’s today.”
“What’s this daddy?”
“Oh, yes, that came in the mail yesterday.”
“Can you open it, please?”
“Sure, just give me a second to start your broccoli. Okay, it’s open. Careful, careful! You don’t know if it’s breakable.”
“Can you open this card?”
“Sure. Here’s what it says, ‘What’s sweeter than a blueberry?…a you-berry! Happy Valentine’s day. Love, Grandma and Pops.'”
“It’s my Valentine’s Day?”
“Huh? Oh. No. Well…yes. I mean, that’s adorable.”
“Merry Christmas,” he said, walking into her room.
“Daddy,” she began, “you know what? I heard Santa last night.”
“I did, too,” he confirmed. “Let’s go see if he brought any presents.”
She led the way to the tree and let out a giggle before she reported her findings.
“I wanna open this one,” she said, pointing to the biggest present.
“Actually, it’s better if we start with the gifts from relatives. Then you can open the gifts from Santa. Is that a deal?” he offered.
“Deal,” she agreed.
“Okay then. Let’s start with Uncle Sam’s gift. What do you think he gave you?” he asked.
She struggled with the bow until, at last, it relented, at which point she lifted the heavier than expected box. She sensed a liquid inside, and like any American child, guessed with more excitement than adults have the capacity to fake, “Is it…wah-der?!”
“Yes child, it’s water. The one thing in life you’ll never be without due to your ‘kul-cherr and hair-i-tij’. Sam waited all year to surprise you with this once in a lifetime gift,” he laughed to himself, head shaking.
“I don’t know,” he answered, “why don’t you open it and find out?”
Terrified, he found himself surrounded by his familiar bedding. He had made it out alive. He was convinced that with each nightmare he was coming closer and closer to not waking up. But each nightmare revealed a truth, so he knew he must persevere. Upon wake-up, the truth was never immediately clear, and this morning was no different. He remembered bits and pieces. He remembered an enormous building. He remembered doors twice a man’s size. He remembered enormous symmetrical staircases.
The lighting was particularly notable. From the outside of the castle, he believed he must have been in the dark ages, but the interior was lit up like a Christmas tree. Oddly, there were no light fixtures, just floating candles emanating tremendous amounts of purifying light. Nearly blinded, he had to hold his hand up to look toward the flames.
“What is this place?” he thoughtlessly wondered aloud.
“Right this way, Peter,” said a voice, startling him out of rationality. He followed a women whose appearance was that of a nurse, though her genuine warmness caused him to doubt his senses. She led him down a corridor. He followed her silent lead and soon began noticing the muffled sounds of whimpering. He was so focused on not losing sight of his guide that he failed to perceive that along either side of the corridor were doors. The whimpering was coming from behind those doors.
“Hey, do you think you can slow down?” he questioned. She only turned her head slightly, letting him know she heard him. “Fine,” he thought to himself. He resolved to jog a bit to catch up and then pause to open one of the doors. The jog took longer than he expected, but he finally was nearly to her, when he again heard a whimper. Twisting the door handle, he braced for anything. It was a couple. They looked at him with an uncommon determination. He could tell they were there by choice, and that the whimpering was simply their conviction manifested.
A loud cry caused him to look back to the corridor and realize the nurse was barely visible any more. It sounded like a child. He ran and he ran to catch her. The faster he ran, the louder the cry became. Soon, he heard many cries. Soon, the cries became familiar. Soon, he made sense of the scene and could guess where he was. Until this moment, he had only heard about the practice he believed he was witnessing. As he finally caught up to the nurse, she slowed to a stop and pointed overhead. The sign read, “Parents, thank you for your courage. You’ve done great so far, and we’re here to help with the rest of the process. Please leave your baby here and find yourself a comfortable room to wait in. When the process is complete, we’ll bring your baby back to you.”
Recalling the delightful smile she gave as she told him the inside joke, he finally stumbled upon this nightmare’s truth. She said, “Don’t tell anyone, but among the staff, we call this corridor the ‘Hall o’ Wean.’ Tee-hee!” In that instant it all became clear. Today’s witches were clearly descended from the nursing staff. The rarely seen doctors come to us, surely, as ghosts. But most certain was the development of trick-or-treating. A smirk formed as he pictured all those poor babies being carried from door to door in search of their parents.
In the end, with medical science’s resounding defense of weaning, he could finally see that this holiday, which he previously thought to be ridiculous, was well-founded and rightly deserved memorialization.