Once upon a time there was a little girl with crystal-blue eyes and a mischievous grin. On a June afternoon, when she was four-and-a-half, the little girl announced to her Franna:
“I can speak Unicorn.”
Now, this came as no surprise to Franna, who knew what magical creatures children are. She also knew that any adult playing a part in a child’s life is charged with sustaining bits of the magic, for that is the secret law of how the universe works… so, just as Franna was about to ask the little girl to please teach her how to speak Unicorn, too, a commercial came on TV.
“Look!” exclaimed the little girl, pointing her tiny dear finger at the screen. “Happy Nappers!”
“Ah,” said Franna, nodding sagely. “Those are … sleeping bags in the shape of animals? First they are pillows, and … you unsnap them to turn them into sleeping bags, then turn them back into pillows when you are done resting?”
“Yes,” answered the little girl in an imperious voice, her eyes glued to the images.
“How magical,” said Franna, scratching her head. She was on the verge of requesting Unicorn language lessons once again when the little girl drew herself up to her full height of forty-five inches and uttered the magic words:
“I. Wish. I. Had. One.”
She added a barely perceptible sigh—exactly the thing that sets the spell in motion.
Franna had no choice then, for it was the same spell she cast on her own grandfather when she was five, long, long ago. She wished for red rubber boots. The next time she came to see him, there they were, waiting for her. After all these years, Franna could still see his smile, could feel the rush of joy…
There was only one thing to do.
“Well, which Happy Napper do you like?” asked Franna.
“The pink unicorn,” announced the little girl.
Franna whipped out her handy smartphone to order the pink unicorn and … “Oh dear.”
“What is it?” asked the little girl.
“I am trying to order the pink unicorn Happy Napper but it’s not available right now. This is called ‘on backorder.’ It means you have to wait a lot more days for it to get here…”
“Oh,” said the little girl, but not in a crestfallen way. She shrugged. “It will still come, right?”
“Yes, but some of the other Happy Nappers are ready to ship now. Like the white unicorn, if you want it instead …”
The little girl shook her head. “The pink one.”
So that was that. Franna ordered the pink unicorn Happy Napper which would take a month—an eternity!—to ship. And, quite unwittingly, she made a grave, grave error: She told the little girl that the pink unicorn shipping date was July 22.
On the morning of July 22, Franna’s son phoned to say: “Guess who woke up singing ‘Today is Happy Napper Day, Happy Napper Daaaay…'”
“Oh no!” cried Franna. “Today is just the SHIPPING day! And I haven’t had any updates!”
“I see …” said Franna’s son, and she did not envy him one bit, having to tell the little girl the Happy Napper really wasn’t due to materialize on that precise day.
And then… things got worse. Much worse. The unthinkable occurred.
A dreadful email arrived:
“Hello! We apologize, but due to overwhelming demand, your order is still on backorder … we expect additional inventory soon… you have the option to modify your order to a different character if you like…”
Feeling weary to her bones, and utterly unmagical, Franna called the little girl to explain: “Your pink unicorn Happy Napper is still backordered. It is not on the way yet. You can still change to a different animal …”
“Why is it taking so long?”
“Well, I guess the pink unicorn is really special and lots of kids wanted it. The Happy Napper people ran out of them and are having to make new ones. Supplies might be hard to get right now because of the coronavirus…”
And the little girl understood. Coronavirus meant she would not go back to preschool, not ever. Coronavirus kept her away from her friends. Coronavirus was a plague, a powerful enchantment that couldn’t be broken, only waited out. Tiny viruses topple mighty kingdoms…
Franna felt terribly sad and vowed not to mention the Happy Napper again.
The Happy Napper people must have known, for they sent Franna an e-book, which was some consolation, as the next most magical thing to a child is a book…and this one contained unicorns…
Then, one afternoon in late August, a mint-green box was delivered to Franna’s porch. She brought into the house and put it on the piano bench to await the coming of the little girl…
Several days later, here she came, strolling into Franna’s house with a joyous smile of greeting… when her crystal-blue eyes landed on the mint-green box…
It just so happened that the little girl could read quite well…
Those words on the box…
Her blue eyes widened. All the light in the universe converged there on her little face and shone forth as only this sacred magic can. She gasped:
“THE HAPPY NAPPER? It’s HERE??”
And so it was.
They opened the box, pulled out the silky-soft hot pink unicorn, and stretched it to its full blinding-rainbow length on the floor, whereupon the little girl climbed right in and made Franna zip it up to her chinny-chin-chin. The pink unicorn fit the little girl just right. The long wait was finally over, at last. And so Franna and the beloved little girl and her pink unicorn lived—can’t you guess?—happily nappily ever after.
One happy napper.
Once upon a time, Franna wished for a little girl.
Magic moments of childhood never die: Here’s the story of the red rubber boots.