Warning: This story contains violence against young children and could be a trigger for anyone who truly cares about children. Mental illness is implied.
“Priscilla, this was the first dress you ever wore!” Margot shook out the tiny garment to show to her youngest and only daughter. “You were all of five months old. It was a hot, muggy day in June and you looked so sweet in this dress, sandals and your baby bonnet. I must find that photo of you sitting outside on a blanket….”
Margot folded up the sundress and placed it gently in the box marked ‘thrift shop’. Some other toddler could wear the dress this coming summer. The bonnet and little white sandals were placed on top like a complete memory being stored in a file on the pc.
Margot was sitting on the hardwood floor in her dining room cum playroom and sorting through all the kids’ clothing that she had brought down from the bedrooms. The boys, at six and four, had shared many clothes (from Taylor to Adam). Priscila had been endowed with more than just dresses; her closet had become quite the fashion storehouse. But there comes a time when clothing has to be passed on.
“Really Taylor, another hole in the knees of your sweats?! No wonder we can never hand these on to Adam.” Shaking her head with a sigh of frustration, Margot folded the pants and placed them into the box marked ‘remnants’. The thrift shop would sort and use those fabrics that could be repurposed as rags. Still, it was a waste that the sweat top would not have its partner for some other child to wear.
“Oh, boys! Your first hockey jerseys!! Look at the old Oilers’ logo. It has changed a bit, eh? Too bad that there are some mustard stains from the hotdogs you ate at the hockey game with Dad. The jerseys won’t be worth anything but the stains are faded and maybe other boys will want them that can’t afford the new ones. Let’s hope so anyway.” Margot folded the jerseys and placed them in a box marked ‘thrift shop- boys’ wear (ages 2-8). Taylor had had such a growth spurt, he was wearing the next boys’ size, past his age.
“Oh, kids! Remember these pjs that you wore last Christmas that are all the same? You looked so cute--like triplets on a set of steps. You won’t need these either so I will put them in the boys’ box.”
“How is your tea party going? I’ll get you some more Kool-Aid for the teapot, ok?” Margot had already made a pitcher of the blueberry flavor and poured the liquid into the teapot and into the four individual plastic play tea cups. “There you go. Enjoy your blueberry herbal tea, kids.” Margot went back to purging the clothing.
“Really, Dennis, your parents have got to stop spoiling the kids.” Margot called out to her husband in the living room. “How many pairs of socks and t-shirts does a kid need anyway?” Margot blamed her in-laws for buying new clothing every few months. The three children just were not growing that fast.
Margot held to the belief that fads in clothing would make a child vain; caring only about their looks. Already, Priscilla would stand in front of the bedroom full-length mirror and turn her body to see herself from all angles once she was dressed in the morning. The mirror had recently shattered into a million shards and Priscilla wouldn’t be able to admire herself any longer.
Now Adam was a whole other story. His clothes had to be meticulously groomed which drove Margot mad. He was a boy for Pete’s sake.
“Honestly, Adam, these clothes are practically new since they have been washed and pressed after every little speck of dirt got on them. I wish you had worn them out instead of wanting a different outfit all the time.”
Margot folded 16 sets of pants and shirts and shoved them into the box of boys’ clothing.
“And look, your t-shirts with the dinosaurs and Lightning McQueen, Mack and Dusty still fit you but you won’t wear them anymore. Honestly, they can’t still be itchy; I have washed them in baby sensitive soap at least 100 times!”
Margot stopped her ranting. Adam had had contact dermatitis since he was born. Being uncomfortable in clothing that was not manufactured from silk, bamboo, tencel, or 100% cotton could not be blamed on the little guy.
“Mommy’s sorry to be so upset. Hey, are you kids ready for the treats for your tea party?” Flitting to the kitchen, Margot brought back the tray with the buttery popcorn, the bowls of M&Ms, string licorice and gummy worms.
“You should have lots of fun making faces on your plates with all of these. I just have your winter clothing to sort through and then we can watch The Incredibles again. I know, Priscilla, you want to watch Frozen but it’s not your turn to pick. OK?”
Margot returned to the pile of clothing with renewed purpose. “Work then play, right kids?”
The heavy coats, snow pants, scarves, toques and mittens were easily sorted with the pinks and purples of Priscilla’s clothing filling the entire box. Two pairs of boots were added as well as her cute little rain boots. “Here go your ducky boots, Prissy.”
Taylor and Adam had several more items between the two of them. Margot found another box and denoted it as ‘boys’ winter clothing—ages 2-8’. With four boxes on the go, Margot added the spring/fall jackets, sweaters (“oh how sweet you looked in these sweaters that our old neighbor knit for all three of you.”) and came to those items hardest to give away. The outfits that each child had worn coming home as a newborn baby after birth. Margot had chosen those so carefully after they had learned the sex of their babies in utero.
Margot held the items in her lap for some time. She wasn’t sure she could let go of these. Yet. A noise distracted her and Margot checked to see if her husband needed anything in the living room. She was humming when she returned to the dining room.
“Guess what, kids? I think we may as well clean out your toys while we’re doing all this.” Margot dashed up the stairs with plastic garbage bags and returned just a half hour later with five filled bags. “Sorry, kids. You don’t have any stuffies, games or Lego left” she said brightly. “I think we will get rid of the balls and hockey stuff from the garage as well.”
The living room now contained boxes of clothing, bags of toys and a pile of outdoor play equipment. Margot continued to hum as she collected these belongings of her children. “Daddy’s out of work and we will all have to make changes.”
“Now, who wants to finger paint?”
Margot approached the small play table that held the remnants of the tea party. Sweeping the table top clear, she placed each child’s hand on the gooey, red and smelly liquid that was pooling in front of them.
“Oh, look” she told her children. “We can do your handprints to show how big you’ve grown!”
There was a knock at the door. Margot swung the wide front door open and then hung back, holding a hammer she had needed for some reason. A middle-aged man in a blue suit stood there with four others in uniform.
“Mrs. Stephenson? Detective Walowski of the police department. I wonder if you can tell us where your husband and children are?”
Margot didn’t blink. She continued to hum as she robotically pivoted and went back to the dining room. Detective Walowski and the constables followed her.
Constable Alicia Juarez took only a quick glance of the chaos in the room, turned and ran to the front entrance. She vomited in the tall, deep green leaves of the dieffenbachia plant sitting in the foyer. As Margot had often said, "you can’t kill a dieffenbachia."
“Sorry, chief” Constable Juarez spoke weakly when she finally returned to her colleagues. Only to feel the need to wretch again as they took in the destruction Margot had done with her hammer.
They found Mr. Stephenson, in the living room, on the couch facing the television screen. The three little children were each seated at the play table; their hands grotesquely positioned in their own blood that had run down their angelic faces. Margot had used the hammer on the skulls of all of them. Detective Walowski shook his head. He hoped an autopsy would reveal how she had managed to kill everyone in her family. Why she had murdered her children and husband would require a team of psychiatrists.
Margot was in a catatonic state. There would be no answers coming from her; not now, maybe never. As she was taken to the police cruiser, she kept repeating “they wouldn’t stop growing.” Inside the back seat, Margot began humming a children’s song Constable Juarez recognized. From her own happy childhood, Alicia Juarez knew the lyrics to the tune.
Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds
Seems to me you'd stop and see how beautiful they are.