My Daughter’s Morbid Stories
There are no nursery rhymes about Covid. I wonder if she finds comfort in making up her own.
“The world is ending,” my 6-year-old daughter says. “My friends say so. They saw cracks everywhere in the sidewalk. Cracks in the building.”
“It’s not ending,” I say. “Do you want a snack?”
That seems to do it for now.
On the way upstairs to our apartment, I tell her not to touch the walls. She furrows her brows.
“Don’t touch, don’t touch, that’s all you say!” She rubs her hands all over the railings and walls and mailboxes.
When she calms down, we agree to go back down and clean the common surfaces together with bleach. I explain we have elderly people in the building who could be at risk. Upstairs, after we wash our hands again, she says she wants to protect the grandmas.
In the evening, my daughter’s beloved purple bear comes down with the coronavirus. She straps her into a plastic basket, wraps a blanket of stars over her, puts on a Barbie eye mask, then thinks better and turns it into a mouth mask. She makes up a song about the virus.
My daughter’s stories and songs are like modern children’s rhymes. But instead of “Ring Around the Rosie,” or “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” it’s always viruses. I wonder if there wasn’t something to those traditional morbid nursery rhymes—if they helped kids process difficult things.
I wonder if, in the absence of modern morbid stories, my daughter finds comfort in making up her own.
“I might die,” she says at bedtime.
When I tell her she won’t, she asks how I can be sure.
By morning, she says she was wrong, and the cracks are really an obstacle course. She says they’re still dangerous, but less so if you’re careful to jump over them, which she can show me how to do—watch her.
Lauren D. Woods works in international relations and freelance writing. She lives in South Arlington. Follow her on Twitter @Ladiwoods1.