So I was feeling unwell – which is to say, really, really vomitously sick – this weekend, and at some point I wandered off to have a nap, leaving the husband and the girl to the task of tidying the living room. ‘Please put away your toys,’ I said to Emilia as I dragged my pathetic self out of the room, tripping over the random dismembered doll parts and stray bits of crafting materials that she keeps in untidy piles throughout the house, ‘otherwise I’ll have to ask Daddy to throw it all away.’
‘It’s my ART,’ she replied, crossing her arms over her chest.
‘Fine. Put away your ART.’
‘I’m using it for DECORATING.’
‘Fine, okay. Just decorate NEATLY, like, by putting it on the shelves or something.’ If I’d had a cold compress, I’d have pressed it against my forehead dramatically as I left the room in a sick huff, but I didn’t, so I just lurched a little as I headed for the stairs.The vacuum cleaner roared to life behind me, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t wish that maybe, just maybe, some of Emilia’s ‘art’ got sucked into the Dyson’s Vortex of Nothingness.
As it happened, that wish did not get fulfilled. Indeed, it seems that Emilia’s ‘art’ took on a life of its own while I was napping and took it upon itself to arrange itself as – as Emilia likes to describe it – ‘decoration:’
I swear on all that is holy that the above-photographed arrangement is exactly as I found it when I wandered downstairs after my nap. When asked about it, Emilia will only say, ‘that’s a dolly. She’s ART.’ She adds that the teeth ‘are Jasper’s,’ and that the book ‘is for you to read, Mommy.’ I can only hope and assume that ‘the book’ to which she refers is the Seuss, and that she doesn’t intend for me to brush up on my post-structuralism while contemplating the decapitated dolly with its bottle-figure, which I assume is some sort of commentary on body image in an age of environmental degradation, and not a Barthesian statement on the figurative absurd of the body imagined as plaything in childhood.
The teeth, I’m hoping, have nothing to do with anything, and were just randomly deposited there by a baby tired of novelty pacifiers. Otherwise the scene takes on a disturbing Blair Witch-ian subtext that I just haven’t the fortitude to decode.
I’m still taking very seriously the possibility that I never did wake up, and that the installation on my living room side-table is some sort of virally-induced nightmare. In which case, Freud has some explaining to do, but still. Nightmares are one thing, parenting a three-year old Cindy Sherman is quite another. I think.
(I think that her installation-slash-decapitated-baby-on-plastic sculpture needs a title. Any suggestions?)