Alice comes running from her room and tells me she is scared.

Scared of dinosaurs.

Scared of motorcycles.

Scared of ghosts and monsters.

“Scared of ghosts? Who told you about ghosts?” I wonder aloud. “What do you think ghosts are?”

I catch myself about to tell her that ghosts aren’t real, knowing full well that whether ghosts are real has almost nothing to do with whether they scare her. So I pick her up. “You know what? I’ll take care of you. I promise. I’ll take care of you.”

She tells me she is scared of sharks. “Sharks live in the ocean and you live in a house. No sharks here.”

She talks about sharks all the time, and I start to think that, sometimes at least, when she tells us she is scared, she is really asking us to tell her more. So we talk about sharks. What they eat. How they move. Where they live. And in the bathtub, she says, “I swimming like a shark.”

Over the holiday weekend, we met my parents in Monterey and took Alice to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I knew she would love it. She pressed her palms against the glass and screamed out her delight. “A shark!” “A feesh!” “A seahorse!” “A sea cu-cum-ber.”

When she is feeling confident, or very proud or happy, Alice walks around with her body tilted forward and her arms thrown back. Like she’s jet-propelled.

She darted around the aquarium that way, uninterested in whether the rest of us could keep up. “Come ON,” she said. “Show you more feesh.”

The next day, on the way back home, we stopped at a beach off Highway 1. Alice didn’t like the way the sand felt – maybe the grit, or maybe the way her feet sunk. She clung and we had to carry her to the water.

Within ten minutes, she wouldn’t even hold my hand. She wanted to stay forever.


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