Cora’s (New) Evening Routines

by Mary Beth

Cora is fond of routines. She just has to be the one to establish the routine. She dislikes other people’s routines.

At dinnertime, Cora is always starving. She may have eaten only an hour or two previously, but her stomach is empty. As soon as she smells food or sees hints of food preparation in the kitchen, she needs to eat. And so, before her parents have dinner on the table, she demands to go into her high chair.

Generally, her slovenly parents have neglected to properly clean her high chair tray by this point, and she finds the dried and crusted remains of her lunch, congealed on the wooden tray. This disgusts Cora.”Yucky, yucky!” she shouts at her parents, reproachfully, a look of revulsion on her face. Then she will keep shouting “yucky” until her mother comes over and wipes down her tray. This is a part of the evening routine that Cora does NOT like.

Cora makes it a point to finish her food first. She spends the first half of dinner scarfing down her food, and then she takes some time to play – food is a lot of fun to play with, after all. She can drink her soup instead of eating it with a spoon, or use a spoon to drink her water. She can put her hands into her yogurt or her hummus and then make handprints on her tray. 

But she keeps a close eye on her mommy, and when her mommy has two or three bites of food left, Cora either starts to slither out of her high chair onto the table, or stands up in her high chair and announces “DONE!” in a loud and authoritative voice. Then she continues, “OUT. OUT.”

“Sit down!” her mommy always shouts at this point. “Sit down right now! Sit down, Cora!” This is all part of the evening routine. Mommy tries to tempt Cora back to sitting by holding up some food to her face; Cora makes a disgusted face and leans back and says “No no no!” and then loses her balance in her exuberance and almost falls out of her high chair; Mommy shouts at her again to sit down. Cora shakes her head and says “Nope!” and then reaches towards the kitchen. “Sink! Sink!” she cries. Cora loathes having dirty hands. By this point, through some mysterious and revolting circumstance, her hands will be covered in something like yogurt or hummus – and she hates it when her hands are covered in yogurt or hummus.

Her mommy, at this point, is always trying to take her last few bites. This is not part of the routine. Mommy is not supposed to finish those bites. If Mommy does not leap up from the table right now to bring Cora to the sink to wash her off, Cora has no choice but to take matters into her own dirty hands. She bends down and puts a hand on the clean wooden back of her high chair. Some of the yogurt or hummus oozes down onto the back pillow, placed in the high chair long ago in a paltry attempt to prevent her from standing up.

Then she throws a leg over the side. She rests her weight on the narrow rail connecting her tray to the back of the high chair. She sits here for a moment, because she knows that her parents can’t resist this move. She starts to lean over the edge. And then, like magic, she is in her mommy’s arms, being carried to the sink.

“Now, Cora, when I wash you off, I’m going to go and finish my food,” Mommy tells her. “You’re going to go play in the living room and you’re not going to sit on my lap. Do you understand? Because you said you’re done.”

Of course Cora understands. She understands perfectly well. Her mother says this to her every night. Cora says nothing in reply. She holds her hands out so her mommy can wash them. Then she is placed on the ground. She waits maybe three or four seconds – long enough for her mother to sit back down. Then she runs over to her mother and puts her little arms over her mother’s leg and looks up into her mother’s face, a picture of tragedy.

“You go play,” says Mommy sternly. “I told you. You said you were done.”

Cora starts to cry. “Up. Up,” she says through her tears. She paws at her mommy’s legs. Her mother pretends to ignore her. She cries harder and tries to climb up the chair onto her mother.

Within a minute or two, her mommy can’t stand it any more and picks her up. Cora sits happily in her lap for somewhere between two and five minutes, and then tries to crawl up onto the table again.

After dinner, it is time for the bedtime routines. This always starts with the tradition of running around and shrieking. Usually Annie initiates this custom, but Cora feels it’s a very good one, so she joins in. The other high point of the getting-ready-for-bed routine is sitting on the toilet to get teeth brushed. This is very, very exciting and there is always a violent scuffle to see who gets up on the toilet first. 

After storytime, Annie climbs right into bed and Daddy plays music on his keyboards. He might play an original composition, or kids’ music, or a classic funky song, or a hymn, or something by the Beatles. Annie enjoys falling asleep to live music. Cora finds it necessary to fall asleep to live music, but she doesn’t enjoy it the way her sister does – she needs it, but doesn’t really notice it.

She gets a little extra cuddle with her mommy while Annie is being put to bed. Then, when she is ready, she marches to her crib. “Tib! Tib!” she says loudly, ignoring the music entirely. Her mommy lifts her into the crib, carefully placing her horizontally at the bottom of the crib and then quickly covering her with a blanket.

Her mother disappears instantly, crouching down on the ground out of sight. A blanket hangs over Cora’s crib rails for precisely this reason – so she can’t see out of the crib.

Some scuffling sounds come from the bottom of the crib. Then Cora is upright. “Wawa!” she cries, happily. She pauses. “Wawa! Wata! Wata!”

Mommy gives a grouchy sigh. “All right, all right, I’ll get you water,” she mutters, and then brings Cora a cup of water. Cora gulps down half the cup, then shoves the cup back at her mommy. “Annie! Annie!” she cries.

Her mommy looks at Annie. “Do you want water?” she whispers.

Annie nods solemnly. She knows she is not allowed to talk when Daddy is playing music.

Her mommy brings her the water and she drinks a few sips, then quietly lays back down.

“Wawa! Wawa!” Cora cries again. Her mother brings her the water, and she takes a few more sips, then grins.

Her mother looks at her very sternly. “Lie down.”

Cora looks at her mommy, her eyes wide and innocent. “Wawa!” she explains, pointing to the cup. She reaches for it.

Her mother takes the cup again and holds it out to her, but Cora tips her head back, away from the cup, and then laughs. Her mother looks angry. “Lie down!” she hisses.

“Wata!” cries Cora, and reaches out for the cup again.

Her mommy holds it up to her and starts to tip it up to help her drink. Cora shuts her mouth tight and some of the water spills on her pajamas.

“Wet! Wet!” she shrieks.

“Well that is what you get!” her mommy says angrily. “Now lie down!”

“Wet! We-e-e-et!” wails Cora.

Mommy aggressively feels her pajamas, which are a tiny bit damp in a couple of places. “You’re fine! Lie down!” She helps Cora by picking her up and placing her, supine, in the bottom of the crib. Cora protests weakly.

There is a silence for a moment, and then “Baby?” says Cora. “Baby? Baby?”

Her mommy, who is still crouching next to the bed, stands up and reaches into the crib, feeling around until she finds a small soft bear. She pushes it at Cora, who gives an overjoyed cry and pulls the bear tightly into a hug. Muffled sounds of “Baby! Baby!” are heard from the interior of the crib, and then silence.

The silence stretches for a few seconds, and then, “Big?”

Her mother sighs and stands up again.

“Big? Big?” says Cora.

Again, Mommy’s hand reaches into the crib, finds a larger stuffed bear, and hands it to Cora, who again receives it joyfully. Her mommy also finds Cora’s pacifier and puts it in Cora’s mouth, hoping to slow the talking.

“Teddy?” Cora asks, taking the pacifier out, before her mother disappears again.

“Here is Teddy.” Her mother aggressively shoves another large stuffed bear in her face, and then sits the bear down by Cora’s head, since Cora does not have any free arms to hold the bear.

“Dada?” asks Cora.

“Here is Dada.” Mommy put a small white bear within reach. “And here is Neigh.”

Cora giggles and grabs Neigh and cuddles him. Neigh, who is a horse, doesn’t really fit in with the crib full of bears, but he doesn’t seem to mind and neither do the bears or Cora.

Cora and her bears – from left to right, Baby, Dada, Cora, Big, Teddy, with Neigh lying rather drunkenly in the front.

Mommy sits down again, and near-silence reigns for about forty-five seconds.

Cora stands up soundlessly and looks down at her mommy, who is reading a book on her phone. Cora peers down through the darkness at the spot of light, and waits, silently, for her mommy to notice her. It takes about eight seconds.

“Lie down!” her mommy hisses. She stands up and grabs Cora and lays her down in the crib. Cora sheds some loud tears and then pops back up again.

“Lie down!” her mother repeats. “Lie down right now or I’m leaving! One, two, three, four, five!”

As she said the word “five” Cora hastily disappears back into her crib. A few seconds pass and then she reappears again, silently.

“Lie down!” her mommy hisses again. “One, two, three, four-”

“Five!” cries Cora helpfully, smiling, and choosing not to lie down this time. It just isn’t worth it. She wants to stand up. If she loses her mother, that is life.

Her mother walks out.

Cora lets out a wail. Her mommy wasn’t supposed to leave! This is terrible! Her mommy left! She continues to wail, standing up.

After a few moments her mommy comes back in. “Stop that! Be quiet! Your sister is sleeping!”

“Seep,” says Cora, and makes crying noises. Her mother aggressively lays her back down.

There are a few seconds of silence, broken only by a few sobs. Then, “Papa,” says Cora. “Papa. Papa. Papa. Papa.”

“You just had it!” Mommy hisses at her. She reaches into the crib and feels around. “Where is it? Where did you put it?”

“Butt. Butt,” Cora weeps.

“Why would you put it in your butt?” asks Mommy, finally finding the pacifier buried under Teddy or Dada – it was difficult to tell who, in the dark.

“Nope!” says Cora. “Butty!”

Mommy ignores her and shoves the pacifier in her mouth. She starts to disappear back to her crouching position when Cora starts to cry again. “Pear,” she says. “Yucky yucky pear.” She makes a spitting sound. “Yucky pear!”

Her mommy takes the pacifier and squints at it in the dark. “Where is the pear? I don’t see it.” After a moment she pulls a very small hair off of it and hands it back. “It’s gone now.”

Cora puts it into her mouth and makes another spitting sound. “Wash! Wash!” she demands, handing it back to her mother, who makes an angry noise under her breath but nevertheless washes the pacifier and hands it back to Cora, who lays down and sucks it contentedly, surrounded by her bears.

There is the longest silence yet – it might have stretched to a full minute. Then, “Poop! Pooooop!” cries Cora, startlingly loud in the quiet room.

“You do not have a poop!” Mommy says in a very hostile whisper. But she and Cora both know that Cora cannot be left to sit in a dirty diaper all night long, so her mommy had to make another appearance just to be sure. There have been a handful of occasions when Cora was telling the truth, although nine times out of ten she was just looking for attention. Her mother smells her. She smells clean. She covers Cora with a blanket and kneels down by the crib again. 

After another minute or two of silence, everyone can hear, very quietly, “Baby. Baby. Dada. Dada. [silence]. Eye. Eye. [silence]. Poke. Po-o-oke.”

Then there is silence again except for the music, and the gentle sound of pacifier sucking.

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