Nothing propels parents to their feet like the unexpected bloodcurdling screams of their child.
One minute she is playing peacefully upstairs with her dollies. The next, an agonizing wail resonates throughout the house. We jump up, terrified the worst has happens. The piercing cry is followed by wretched sobbing.
We rush up the stairs. She comes running out of her room and collapses in my arms. I grab firm hold of her, temporarily reassured that at least I see no blood.
Smilin' Vic, the man with the deepest voice I know, shrilly shout-squeaks "What the hell is going on!? What happened?" (I never realized he had such range; the high pitch momentarily distracts me from my fear.)
"Tinkerbell's head fell off!" Wails of despair.
I step back, hold her at arms length. Get a good look at the tears streaming down her cheeks. Stifle the hysterical laughter welling up in me. I'm relieved; I now find the whole situation incredibly funny. I hug her close again so I can hide the smile that will inevitably break free.
Smilin' Vic does not see the humor. The Big Voice returns "You scared the living crap out of us! What's with the crying? It's no big deal. I'll fix it!"
My daughter's eyes grow wide. Horror and disbelief at his callousness, his apparent indifference. A fresh wave of tears is cresting. "Not a big deal? How would you feel Papa? Tinkerbell lost her head!"
I can't take it anymore; I disguise my laughter with a snort, try to pass it off as a sob. I hug her closer. Smilin' Vic turns and walks silently away in apparent defeat. It's hard for a former military man to conceive how very intense a little girl's relationship with her Barbies can be. I've lost Barbies' heads before. I've lost my head before. It's a big deal.
I pull myself together, take Tinkerbell's body in one hand, her head in the other, and inspect the damage. Tinkerbell's head has, in fact, been viciously torn from her neck. This was no simple dolly decapitation, the kind where you can pop the ball at the tip of her neck back into the hole at the base of her head.
No, the damage seems irreparable; it does indeed appear that her fairy days have come to a violent end. I ask my daughter how this happened. Between sniffles, she explains that she was trying to take off Tinkerbell's pants, had Tinkerbell's head squeezed between her knees as she was yanking on the pants. That's when her neck shattered, pieces scattering into Tinkerbell's now decapitated head. My daughter is starting to fall apart again as she relives that horrific moment, that horrible 'pop' when Tinkerbell lost her head.
Obviously they don't make Tinkerbell like they used to.
Smilin' Vic reappears, a tube of Crazy Glue in hand. He delicately picks up Tinkerbell's head, applies glue, and somehow sticks it back onto what is left of her neck. It holds. My daughter looks up at him, her eyes filled with amazement. She hugs him tightly, then skips away, back into her room, with convalescing Tinkerbell. Not a word is spoken. And just like that, he makes everything better.
No matter that her head now sits slightly askew on her shoulders. No matter that she no longer has the slightest range of motion in her neck. Tinkerbell may have lost her head, but Papa put her back together again. All is well with the world.
N.B. We've actually been through this a few times before. The first Barbie our daughter ever got came out of the box with a leg severed at the hip (this was a gift from a doctor; even he was powerless to save her leg ... we improvised by tying a rubber band around Barbie's knees and always dressing her in floor length gowns). Our neighbor split Disco Ken in two at the waist when our daughter was 4 (she retold the nightmare of that misadventure for at least a year). A Belle (mini Disney Princess) was also severed in two at one point (unfortunately no glue was ever able to put her back together again).