What to Do When Bears Return Unexpectedly From an Outing (a Poem)

We packed your bag today.
I told you the stories of when I went to where you are going now.

The deep, dark woods of life.

I told you about the night I got cold and hungry and found a bears’ house to sleep.
About the time your uncle and I left breadcrumbs to the old witch’s house.
And about what I found in grandmother’s bed while visiting her in my red-hooded coat.

You dug around on the floor of your closet, searching for your favorite pair of shoes.
“What about your boots?” I asked. “The waterproof ones.”
You emerged with a pair of pink flip flops and dropped them into your bag.

You sigh, asking, “Can’t you tell me the glass slipper story instead?”
“That one again?”
Now I sigh.
“To be honest, I made it up when I wanted you to be okay
with scrubbing the floors.”
“But I like it.”
I breathed deeply and looked around for what else you will need.

“Do you have sunscreen? Bug repellent? A tent? Trail mix?”
You packed several scents of lip gloss, some that sparkle.
Around your neck, you placed a small vile of glitter, your amulet.
I draped you in chicken bones from my altar.

Then your sweet voice:
“You know the story I want to hear?
The one with the apple
and the prince.”
“Yeah…I made that one up, too.
Just trying to get you to go to sleep one night.”

We moved things around in silence for a while,
A quiet battle raged in the bags we were packing.

I considered telling you the story
I want you to remember most of all.
The one where…
Never mind.
You were texting.

Then just when I thought I had lost you, you looked up.
“You mean, how you met daddy was a lie?”
“Well, I twisted things a little.”
“So how did you meet him, really?”
“At a bar. We were drunk. Really.”

You sat stunned for a moment,
then read a Tweet and smiled;
“Justin Beiber is in Bangladesh.”

I tried to be satisfied
with what geography you were learning and
slipped a few things in your bag when you turned away.
Ten thousand band-aids,
A map, a compass,
And a loaf of bread so you can make your way back to me.

Your bag packed, I handed you a flashlight and
watched you walk through
the gingerbread threshold a final time,
whispering spells in the dark for your protection.

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