The last time I saw Elsa, she was slumped against Olaf on top of the speaker next to the record cabinet we childproofed after our kid unsleeved Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and overheaded it toward the dog. I asked the kid if that’s where Elsa went even though I knew the answer was no. She said I don’t know, and I thanked God because the follow up was well where does she go? and I had no fuckin’ clue, the toy chest in the closet or the ottoman turned into a toybox or the bookshelf turned into a Montessori toy display that folks on Instagram said would encourage choice, develop independence, foster curiosity.
None of this mattered because we needed Elsa now, like right now, and no one could find her. We were late to the dentist which meant we were late to daycare and both the dentist and the daycare agreed that we should let the kid pick a toy to bring with her to help combat dental anxiety and separation anxiety and any other type of anxiety she might confront because she was too young to smoke on the back step after bedtime and listen to “Lucky Denver Mint” until her nerves calmed enough that her hands stopped shaking and she could crack a beer, make her way from one room to another throwing toys wherever they’d fit so they were out of sight—into the cabinets of the play kitchen or the drawers of the heirloom buffet or the record cabinet we childproofed because Clarity never sounded quite right again after it missed the dog, skidded across the hardwood floor.
I shouldn’t have expected the kid to know where Elsa went because she was three, but she had a DVR brain that picked up every scene of every film, every word my wife and I muttered to one another, and even though it wasn’t fair I could have used a hand rewinding to when I last saw Elsa so I could track her down and walk a smiling kid into the dentist and later across the daycare parking lot, her hand in mind and Elsa’s in hers as we waved to families, teachers, front office staff. I asked the kid where she left Elsa and she asked me the same and I told her you know what, we can buy a new Elsa if you’re good at the dentist and have a good day at school. She looked up and told me she didn’t want a new Elsa, and before I could take a breath, count to five and sort out a way to be bigger than this, better than this like the parenting influencers suggested I should be, she ran to the speaker next to the record cabinet and pulled out Elsa from behind it, and that’s how we decided where Elsa goes.