So then…I open the mailbox and find a little pillow – too big for a doll, but too small for a child. It is tye-dyed in dark swirly colors. It is misshapen and a little dirty. It has the word Chloe written on it in awkward handwriting – not quite a child’s writing – more like that of a mental patient.
I look up and down the street. I see no one. Who put this pillow in my mailbox? How do they know my child’s name?
I ask Chloe, age 5, if she knows anything about it. Nope. Husband or brother? Nope.
This doesn’t look like Chloe’s handwriting. And if she made it at school, it would have come home in her backpack – not wind up inside our mailbox.
So did someone make this for her? There’s no note. No one is taking credit for this spooky little dark gothic pillow.
I am totally freaked out. My husband David, of course, is blithely nonchalant.
I think his exact words are “Huh. Ahh.” with a shrug.
“But don’t you want to know where this came from? What creepy person gave her this weird gift? It must be someone who knows where we live and what her name is – maybe a former babysitter? Or a repairman? What if she’s in danger?” I ask, my voice rising with hysteria.
“She’s not in danger. We live in a guard-gated community,” he says reassuringly. “No one’s gonna get past the guard to come and get her.”
“Well, they got past the guard to put the pillow in the mailbox, DIDN’T THEY?”
I give him the wild-eyed look that indicates I’m about to go off the deep end.
“Good point,” he concedes, “but maybe it was someone inside the neighborhood that put it in the mailbox.”
“Inside or outside — I think whoever left it is going to kidnap her,” I say firmly.
“Really? And they left the pillow because…why?” he asks. “If they’re planning to kidnap her, wouldn’t they keep the pillow for her to sleep on?”
“You’re not taking this seriously! I think we should call the police,” I say.
“Darcy, you do not need to call the police. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this pillow. Just throw it away and don’t worry about it,” he says.
“Oh, no,” I say. “I am not throwing it away. I am putting it in a plastic bag and keeping it in the file cabinet. If she gets kidnapped, I will have the evidence and fingerprints all ready for the police to investigate.”
“OK, you do that,” he says, in the tone of voice he uses when speaking to a small child or to – well, me when I’m being paranoid.
So I slip the weird mini pillow into a big plastic baggie and write the date on it in Sharpie and put it in my garage filing cabinet.
From that day forward, I am hyper vigilant whenever we are out and about with Chloe – at the park, the mall, the zoo — I am constantly looking over my shoulder for some weirdo in a dark swirly tye-dyed shirt.
SEVERAL YEARS LATER…
So then…we’re sipping drinks and snacking on appetizers at a friend’s backyard party when another neighborhood family approaches us and re-introduces themselves and their kids since we haven’t seen them in so long.
The mom says to me, “Omigosh, how old are your kids now? They must be so big!”
I say, “Oh, yeah, Chloe’s 8 and Tucker’s 11. Your kids are so grown now too!” I smile at them.
The mom says to her kids, “Hey, do you remember when her daughter Chloe used to come over to our house for art classes when she was about 4?” She looks up at me. “Your daughter had such a fun time. Hey, did you ever get that last art project she made? I’m sorry it took me almost a year to drop it off — it was a little pillow – I put it in your mailbox.”
David about spits out his beer. He looks at me, grinning and triumphant. I want to kill him.
He is about to spill the whole story about how I was certain an eerie stalker was sending my kindergartener ominous gifts – when in reality, both Chloe and I forgot that she used to take art classes from the neighbor lady who innocently dropped off the last project as a kindness.
I send him such a withering glare, it practically singes his eyebrows. He does not tell the story. But he is grinning from ear to ear for the rest of the party, shooting me meaningful glances and nodding toward that art teacher mom.
I know as soon as we get home, he is going to tease me mercilessly, congratulate me on finding the dastardly would-be kidnapper, and ridicule my paranoia.
But honestly, how are we supposed to remember what Chloe made in a neighborhood art class a whole year previous? And the mom could have avoided the whole mystery by simply writing a note with the pillow like, “Here’s your daughter’s art project, signed Nice Neighborhood Mom (not a Raving Lunatic Stalker Dude).”
Of course I am overwhelming relieved to have the mystery solved so innocently.
But now that I know my daughter did make this hideous pillow with the horrendous handwriting and dreadful dye job, I start to worry about her artistic skills.
So I guess she wasn’t in danger of being kidnapped – (or of winning any art contests!)
– Darcy Perdu
(Tell us about your suspicions and paranoia – or any embarrassing misunderstandings. Any art projects gone terribly awry? Share your Comments and Stories.)