The Stealthy ‘Paci’ Bandit Strikes

It’s the first full week of 2014, and it’s kind of nice getting back to some semblance of normalcy after the holidays. I’ll admit that 2013, at least the last weeks of it, just flat wore me out, though it was more than the usual fatigue that accompanied year’s end.

This time there was Charlotte.

Charlotte, my granddaughter, is from Virginia, and she is an amazing girl with some very well-honed talents. Among them is an uncanny ability to case a house in 10 minutes, assessing items to be transferred to undisclosed locations. One key to her success is stealth. Another is a step stool, a handy tool that expands her capabilities to the unreachable – and unthinkable.

Charlotte may be only 2 years old, but don’t let that fool you. She has the heart of a cat burglar, of a James Bond spy. That crinkly grin and cute way she says, “Mimi, I can have a wollipop?” or “Charlotte wear cwocs (Crocs),” or “Charlotte can watch video?” are all ploys. This master of diversion has one of Mimi’s favorite lipsticks clutched in her toddler-sized hand.

Let me give an example of just how stealthy she is. We’ll call it “The case of the missing paci (or pacifier).”

One day, naptime was nigh and Charlotte, holding “blankie” in hand, asked forlornly, “Daddy, where’s my paci?”

“I don’t know, honey, where did you have it last?” A normal 2-year-old would never be asked that question, but Charlotte is nearly always able to locate what she has previously “relocated.”

However, this time no such total recall appeared. An APB (all pacifier bulletin) went out for not just one pacifier, her favorite red one, but also the pink one, which also suspiciously had gone missing. All grownups leaped into action. No location went unsearched: under beds, under rugs, in cars, between couch cushions, in the dog beds, under the dogs, in all trash and garbage cans (ick!), outside, inside, in purses, pockets and shoes, in drawers, behind furniture, in closets, in the swimming pool and even in the window shades.

If you’ve never heard the melancholy moan of a toddler missing her pacifier, take my word for it, it will bring you to your knees.

I fought the urge to call 911.

Eventually, the parents (my daughter and son-inlaw) became reconciled to the fact that the location of pacis 1 and 2 may never be disclosed because this time, Charlotte, the infamous stealth toddler burglar finally may have slipped up. This time she may have hidden two of her beloved somethings so well that she would never find them again. The parents toyed with the idea of using this occasion to wean her from the paci habit, but reconsidered. In a few days, they would fly back to Virginia. Would 12 hours without Paci on airplanes be wise? Daddy went to Longs to purchase a pack of pacis.

Two days later, all was calm on the homefront. Charlotte was doing her normal stealth prowl as the adults and even her very helpful 5-year-old sister Emma did their best to keep all eyes on her. “Paci,” we heard whispered quietly from the corner behind the downstairs sofa. “Paci, Mommy.” Sure enough, there in one drawer of an 18-drawer chest were the two missing pacifiers, exactly where Charlotte surreptitiously had placed them. Daddy even had searched some of those very drawers, but thought, no, she wouldn’t have put them in there.

She had.

Charlotte is now back in Virginia, far away from our empty but neat house, where every day I find welcome evidence of her work: a sticky handprint here, a hidden bottle cap there, reminding me of how very much I miss her and her sister.

In 2014, please bring me more days of little Crocs and slippers they call “betweens” (because they go between the toes, of course) outside the door, hidden treasures tucked about, giggly, grinning faces and sticky-lipped kisses. Let me hear “Watch dis, Mimi” over again and again and again. Then, it truly will be a Happy New Year.