The child holding the string cheese triggered a mental flash from her past that she did not remember.
Kind of odd when she thought about it. Not knowing her past was not a new thing. She was adopted from the agency when she was 9. She loved her adoptive parents and felt no need to find out who gave her up or why it was done.
Until she saw the child in the park.
She was going on a stroll through the park to clear her head and enjoy being outside. People were riding bikes, sitting under trees and basking in the warm summer glow. Kids were running around, like kids do, and it made her smile.
She saw a family having a picnic. She glanced over and saw the pretty young girl hold up a strand of string cheese, cock her head sideways and giggle.
That was when the image overtook her vision. It was her, as a 5 year old child, head cocked sideways. The face held a blank expression. She was holding up something and the words she saw herself mouth were, “Toopid Moose”.
She stopped in her tracks. She couldn’t understand what it was. She tried to shake it and just couldn’t do it.
She went home and thought about it. The one thing she could remember was when she lived at the adoption home, she was always watching “Rocky and Bullwinkle”. A cartoon with a flying squirrel and a moose. But it just didn’t fit with the image.
The image wouldn’t go away. In her sleep, she heard her own childhood voice repeat that phrase, “Toopid Moose”. When she looked in the mirror, she would be sitting behind her in child form holding up…..whatever it was with a tilted head and blank face. She had to know what it meant.
To find they answer she went to her adoptive mother and father.
She normally had dinner with them once a week. Upon arrival they knew something was up. She wasn’t herself.
“What’s wrong, honey. You look a little pale. Have you been sleeping well?”
“No Mom I haven’t. Can I ask you a strange question?”
“You know, you can ask me anything.” she replied as she began placing the the dinner plates on the table.
“I’ve been wondering about my childhood…..before you and Dad adopted me….do the words toopid moose ring a bell with…
The plates hit the floor with a crash. Mom lost color and held the chair for support.
“Mom? What is it?” she asked.
“Well, I had a feeling this day would come …..but I prayed to the good Lord that it wouldn’t. Your Father and I can’t be the ones to tell you the truth. The only one who can is your old caretaker from the adoption agency. We made a promise to her to let her tell you. You know how we are about our promises. We keep them. Just like the promise we made to love you as if you came from my womb on the day we adopted you.”
Mom reached into small box and pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to her. ” Here is her address. Go visit her and ask for the truth. She promised she would.”
She left her parents house and went directly to the address. She pulled her car up to the curb and got out. An elderly lady sat on a bench on the patio. As she approached the steps the old woman spoke,
” My, My….I knew it was you the second you got out.”
“it’s been over 15 years since I was adopted. How could you possibly remember me?”
“The look on your face now matches the one you had when you came to us. Bright green eyes, blank expression. You came for the truth, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I keep having this image of me holding up ….string cheese….and saying toopid moose. What does it mean?”
“Sit, child. I have to get something.”
She went inside and returned with an old cigar box. She back back on the bench and placed it beside her.
“Child….When you were brought to us, you were in a state of shock. Your biological mother loved you dearly but could not handle the state of her affairs. Financially, emotionally and spiritually broken she was. You were not a burden to her….she wanted you to have better but did not know how to accomplish it. The more she tried the more depressed she got…….
for right or wrong I took it upon myself to attempt to train you to hide your memories of that night. That cartoon with the moose was the best I could come up with. I had you watch it continually to cloud your memory of the words you always repeated. Toopid Moose. I thought because of your young age you would forget the truth. Eventually the truth always wins out.”
She opened the cigar box and handed her a newspaper clipping…..
The headline read- Single Mother Commits Suicide While Child Watches
Police were dispatched to a home in response to apparent suicide. The woman was found hanging from a noose tied to a basement ceiling rafter. Her young daughter was found in the room. Name withheld due to her being a juvenile…..
A white flash erupted in her vision. A scene from her childhood began to play.
“I need to end this sweetie. Someone will find you. If I could just figure out how to do this knot right….”
She tied her 4th attempt at a noose to the rafter and got up on the chair. She placed her neck into it and kicked the chair out.
And for the fourth time the rope came unloose and she came crashing down.
“Stupid noose. I can’t even kill myself right.”
The child lifted up the first discarded attempt at a noose, tilted her head and said,
“yeah mommy toopid moose.”
The mother became frantic. One more try…..
She picked up the thick rope from the hardware store and REALLY concentrated on the instructions she got online. She tied the square knot around the rafter and pulled it tight. It seemed secure. She calmly figured out the height of the noose she needed and formed it at the other end. She looked at her daughter.
The child looked up, cocked her head, held up another piece of rope and said, “Toopid Moose”
“Hopefully not this time sweetie. I love you” before getting on the chair she picked up the phone and dialed 911, and left the phone receiver lying on the shelf. She got up on the chair and placed her neck in the noose….
“Emergency services, how can we assist you?…..hello….is anyone there….hello….”was heard in a muffled voice
She kicked out the chair. The rope tightened. She struggled for a moment….then swung in the air until she stopped.
The child looked up, holding a piece of rope, and said, “Toopid moose, Mommy….mommy….”
Her normal vision returned…and she began to cry. The old woman held her and rocked her like she did when she first met her 19 years before and said,
“There, there child…. It’s over now.”