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“Dreams: The Fake Lives You Have at Night”

The 8-year-old was tasked with creating a book in class, and this was her submission.

In the past eight years, I have grown accustomed to the sawed-off Buddha who shares my home, the one who openly discussed death at 2, projects a stoic calm in moments of physical trauma, and has, from the beginning, regarded our parental admonishments (“Your face is gonna stick like that!” “Broccoli’s just green popcorn.” “Sirens! They’re finally taking Nola to jail!”) with an eyeroll or a patient, bemused smirk.

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Last week during her haircut, I caught enough of her intense conversation with the 50-something stylist to hear the preternatural sage say, “My secret? I don’t live in the past.” She said it from a booster seat; the stylist eyed her warily, saying she wished she’d learned that 30 years before.

Some time ago, the Itty Bitty pulled me aside. “Mama, I trust you. More than anyone. I know you never lie to me, and I know you’ll always do what’s right.”

It was a benediction, that trust, and a millstone: I’m still learning those things she’s always known, even the gossamer fiction of dreams.

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