(Garden Park, June 28th, 1994, 9:08 a.m.)
Amanda and Meghan played in the sandbox together, depositing sand into their respective buckets as their mothers watched them from the nearby park bench. The little girls had spent the last twenty minutes burying toys and digging them back out, imagining themselves as explorers finding buried treasures. They communicated with each other the best they could, utilizing their reduced vocabularies to express themselves as they went about enjoying the warm summer day. It was the first time either of them had been outside of their homes since they had entered the final stage of their regression and playing in the sandbox provided them with a sense of freedom. As their mothers sat on the bench chatting and drinking their morning coffee, the conversation turned to that of their daughters’ memories and what was going on in their minds as they relived babyhood.
“You see, Rachel, I know it’s supposed to be a ‘fresh start’, but yesterday at the clinic when they recognized each other…….it made me wonder just how much Meghan remembers. Have you wondered the same about Amanda?”
Amanda’s mother sipped her coffee, then stared off in the direction of the two little girls. “I did wonder, Jenn. I wondered so much that it started to drive me crazy. I wanted to know, even though there was a part of me that, well……. you know what they say. Ignorance is bliss.”
“So, what did you do?” Meghan’s mother asked, her eyebrow raised in curiosity.
“I just asked her. I asked her and she understood me. She remembers, Jennifer. She remembers everything. I don’t know exactly what she feels, because she’s lost so many of her words, but she said it felt like a dream to her.”
“Like a dream….” Meghan’s mother said, looking over at her daughter as she played. “I wonder if it’s the same for Meghan. There’s certain things I don’t want her to have to know all over again. Her father passing, for one. It just……. doesn’t feel fair, you know? To tell her that her father isn’t alive and having to deal with that pain, when she already felt it the first time around.”
Amanda’s mother nodded her head. “I know what you mean, Jenn. We made a choice for them, though. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have to deal with consequences, too. Well, maybe when you feel the time is right, you can ask her.”
“Thank you, Rachel,” Meghan’s mother said, placing her hand on Rachel’s. “Having someone to go through this with…….it makes things a lot easier…..”
Meanwhile, as Amanda emptied her bucket out behind her, she felt the urge that she typically felt around this time every morning. Amanda looked over at her mother, watching her converse as her body responded to the call of nature.
“Oh, uh oh. Rachel, I think Amanda might be….you know…..”
Amanda’s mother turned to see her daughter in her telltale “potty squat” while simultaneously digging in the sand. She walked over to her, kneeling beside her and pulling her shorts down to her ankles. Amanda began to fuss as her mother pulled the rear of her diaper away, not out of embarrassment but out of frustration with having her play interrupted. She began to pull away from her mother, stepping out of her shorts and walking back to Meghan in just her diaper and t-shirt. Amanda’s mother began to giggle at her daughter’s nonchalance about what she’d done.
“Doctor Gembella was right,” she thought. “She doesn’t seem to mind that her diaper is dirty! She’d rather play than get changed out of it!” Realizing that her daughter wasn’t going to ask for a change on her own, she decided to try and persuade her in another way.
“Phew! That sure is stinky, Amanda! I don’t think Meghan is going to want to keep playing with you if you smell like that!” her mother playfully teased. Amanda ignored her mother, sitting down next to Meghan with her shovel and bucket. It didn’t take Meghan long to notice the foul smell emanating from her friend.
“Manda ‘tinky!” she said, waving her hand in front of her nose and scooting away from her. Amanda stood back up, turned to her mother and slowly walked back towards her, head low and looking at the ground.
“Diapuh ‘taynge……” she muttered in a resigned tone of voice, burying her head shyly in her mother’s chest. Amanda’s mother chuckled, kissed her daughter on the top of her head and then carried her to the park bench.
After changing Amanda, the two mothers allowed their children to play a bit longer, then told them it was time to go. When the two little girls began to fuss about having to leave, they reminded them that they were going to see The Lion King, which immediately made them forget about the park. After putting their daughters in their car seats, they set off for the theatre.
(Pandora Cinema, June 28th, 1994, 9:47 a.m.)
Amanda and Meghan looked up at the cinema entrance as they were pushed in their strollers. When they were teenagers, they had spent countless hours seeing movies with friends and hanging out in the parking lot into the wee hours of the night. Now, it seemed absolutely massive to them, which somehow made it feel new. As Amanda looked around the theatre, taking in its newly massive scale, she looked over at Meghan who seemed preoccupied with the small row of arcade machines resting against a wall. Suddenly, her eyes grew wide with excitement. She grabbed Amanda’s hand, pointing at the translucent box filled with stuffed animals and toys.
“Manda! Bear! ‘Member!” she shouted, looking at her friend expectantly. Amanda stared at the claw machine and then suddenly remembered why Meghan was so excited. Suddenly, a memory came rushing back into her mind…….
(Pandora Cinema, August 3rd, 1991, 8:33 p.m.)
It had been a typical Saturday night at the movies. Meghan and Amanda had seen Return to the Blue Lagoon together. Jocelyn, as usual, had decided to stay home and study for her upcoming math test. The two girls hung around the arcade machines in the lobby, discussing what they were going to do next. As they tried to parse out who may have been having a party that evening, a clean-cut, uniformed young man nervously approached them.
“Hey, uh, guys? Hamilton’s been really strict lately about loitering, so if you could…….”
“Fuck off, Wendel” Meghan said dismissively, holding up her middle finger. “We’ll leave once we figure out who’s partying tonight. And fuck Hamilton. Bald prick fired me over nothing,” she scoffed, taking out a cigarette.
“Uh, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you get so high before work that you ushered a family with young children into Silence of the Lambs? Hamilton had to pay for their therapy sessions, ya know!” Wendel retorted.
Meghan rolled her eyes, taking out her lighter. “Whatever. Nice bowtie by the way, dork.”
“It’s part of the uniform, MEGHAN!” Wendel angrily protested, grabbing her cigarette out of her mouth. “And you know you can’t smoke in here anymore!”
“Wendel, take a fucking pill, ok? We’ll be gone in a few minutes” Amanda interjected, grabbing the cigarette from Wendel and handing it back to Meghan. Wendel took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly.
“Look, I’m not trying to be a dick, ok? It’s just that Hamilton doesn’t want kids using this place as a ‘flophouse’, whatever that is….” he explained, using air quotes. “You can stay just……. look like you’re spending money, ok?” he suggested, looking around nervously.
“Fine, we’ll play the claw game” Amanda agreed, rooting around in her purse to find change.
Wendel visibly relaxed, satisfied by the bargain. “Good. Great. Well, I gotta go. Stall 3 in the Men’s room is clogged and, well, guess who’s on toilet duty tonight?” he agitatedly exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air and fast-walking towards the restrooms. The two girls looked at each other, paused, then began laughing hysterically. When they settled down, Amanda began to put quarters into the claw machine.
“These things are such a scam. I’ve never won anything from one of these shitboxes” Meghan dryly commented as the claw activated and moved into its starting position.
“Shut up, spaz. You’re the most uncoordinated person on the planet. You couldn’t give a hand job in an earthquake” Amanda shot back, guiding the claw delicately over the pile of stuffed animals. “See that bear right there, the one wearing the little skirt? I’m taking her home with me! Now, watch how it’s done, Hart!” She pressed the red button on top of the joystick, then watched as the claw descended over her target. It closed, catching one of the bear’s arms, but halfway up it fell face down into the pile.
“Good job, ‘spaz!’” Meghan sarcastically teased.
“Oh, whatever! Like you can do any better?” Amanda challenged, shoving Meghan’s shoulder.
“Watch me!” Meghan exclaimed, taking a handful of change from her purse and sifting through it for quarters. Soon, Meghan was at the controls as Amanda stood by and watched.
Amanda leaned in close to Meghan and began poking her in her side in a childish effort to break her concentration.
“Cut it out, Amanda! I’m trying to focus, here!” Meghan protested, making a few last second movements with the joystick. Meghan made her final adjustment, then pressed the red button. The two watched anxiously as the claw slowly descended onto the bear. It closed on its arm, lifted it out of the pile and began to carry it over to the chute that led to the prize bin below. The claw abruptly stopped as it changed direction towards the chute, causing Meghan to audibly gasp as the stuffed toy began to slowly slip out of the claw’s grip.
“Come on, come on!” Meghan anxiously chanted as claw neared the drop off point.
Suddenly, the bear fell from the claw, striking the top of the plexiglass wall that separated the chute from the pile of toys. It teetered for a few seconds, then fell down the chute and into the prize bin.
“YES! I got it!” Meghan triumphantly declared, pumping her fists and taunting Amanda.
“You only got it because I moved it to the top of the pile!” Amanda protested, crossing her arms and scowling as Meghan retrieved the bear from the bin.
Meghan taunted Amanda, holding the bear up to her face and making it speak to her. “Aww, don’t be mad Amanda! Why can’t you be happy for Meghan? Are you sad because you wanted me to go home with you?”
A smile broke out on Amanda’s lips and she began to chuckle at Meghan’s goofy-sounding bear voice. “No, I’m pissed because your new owner wouldn’t have gotten you out of there without my help. And that’s not even a good bear voice. You sound like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.”
“You’re mean! I was gonna offer you shared custody but now you can forget it!” Meghan teased, dancing the bear in front of Amanda.
“Too bad, I could have taught you how to sound like a bear instead of a donkey with chronic depression” Amanda retorted.
“Aww! Look, she even has a little scrunchy on her wrist, just like you!” Meghan noted. “Well, this bear needs a name and since I won her, I get to choose. Let’s seeeeeee……you’re a bear……and you’ve got a little scrunchy on your wrist just like Amanda, so your name is…. MandaBear! What do you think?”
Amanda raised her eyebrow. “’MandaBear?’ Seriously?”
“Ugh, sorry MandaBear but Amanda’s being a bitch tonight! We’re, not hanging out with her anymore! Let’s go see if we can find a party!” Meghan cheerily exclaimed as she skipped away from Amanda towards the lobby’s exit. Amanda sighed, then chased after Meghan.
“Hey, you’re not going to talk to that thing all night, are you? Meghan? Come on, Meghan!”
(Pandora Cinema, June 28th, 1994, 9:48 a.m.)
Meghan watched as Amanda continued to stare at the machine, deep in thought. Finally, Amanda turned to her with a knowing look on her face.
“Me ‘member! Meggy ‘member! We ‘member!” she exclaimed, realizing that Meghan hadn’t forgotten about their past. The little girls were overcome with joy, reaching over to hug each other as best as they could while strapped in their strollers. Their mother’s watched as they giggled and clasped each other’s hands in a display of pure, innocent joy.
Meghan’s mother looked astonished. “Oh my gosh, Rachel. She’s talking about MandaBear! I remember the night she came home with her! She told me the story a million times. She was so happy that she had finally won something from one of those machines!”
“Well, you wanted to know if she remembers. I think you have your answer, Jennifer” Amanda’s mother said, touching her friend’s shoulder and smiling. Meghan’s mother teared up, raising her hand to her mouth. She knelt down beside Meghan, kissed her cheek and stood back up, dabbing her eyes with a Kleenex. “Well, our daughters want to see the Lion King and that’s what we’re going to do! Now let’s get those tickets!” she said, a looking as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
The women entered the theatre after purchasing their tickets, taking two seats at the end of one of the middle rows. They unbuckled their daughters from their strollers and then sat them in their laps. The little girls were given Ziplock bags filled with Cheerios as they waited for the movie to start.
As the lights went down and the previews began, Amanda caught bits and pieces of the conversation her mother was having with Meghan’s.
“I can’t believe that……….I just don’t know why they’d still be having a party for her. After all that happened, wouldn’t they be embarrassed?” Amanda’s mother whispered.
Meghan’s mother rolled her eyes. “I know, but that’s the Campbells for you. They’re total yuppies and love to show off money. Elizabeth told me that they had already paid for all of the catering and decorations anyway and they still wanted to celebrate something……so……..oh……..hold on a second……”
Meghan’s mother lifted the rear of Meghan’s dress, then sniffed the back of her diaper. “Well, you didn’t make a poopy in your crib this morning so I guess I should have known you’d be doing it sooner rather than later. I’ll be right back. Meghan needs a diaper change.”
Meghan began to fuss as her mother picked up her diaper bag and carried her out of the theatre. By the time they reached the exit, Amanda could hear Meghan having a toddler tantrum.
“Meggy go?” Amanda asked, looking up at her mother with worried eyes.
“She’s just being a little grumpy pants, sweetie. She’ll be back after she gets her diaper changed,” her mother reassured.
A few minutes later, Meghan’s mother came back into the theatre, carrying Meghan who seemed to be over her earlier meltdown. They took their seats just as the movie started.
“Anyway, like I was saying,” Meghan’s mother began, “I just think it’s odd that…..”
“SHHHHH!!!” the two little girls said, turning to their mothers and putting their fingers over their lips. Stunned, the two mothers looked at their daughters, then at each other, then covered their mouths as they desperately tried to contain their laughter.
Their daughters may have been toddlers, but even they knew that it was rude to talk during a movie.