To Elena, From Aby: The Vaccination Unicorn

Dear Elena,

I don’t know when you’ll first read this, so I don’t know how how much Covid-19 will figure into your consciousness. But as I write this, Covid continues to be ever-present in our minds. Particularly in the Bay Area, everybody is wearing masks, we’re socially distancing, and right about now (November of 2021) we’re all getting our vaccination boosters.

More importantly, kids from 5-11 years old just started getting their first vaccinations. And you got your pfirst Pfizer vaccine just a week ago. You hate shots (don’t we all?), but you were so brave about it, because you understood how important it is. Completely coincidentally, you ran into your friends Dani and Ella at Kaiser, were you were all getting your vaccinations. I have never seen three such courageous girls in all my life.

The next day, you came to our house, then you and Ana went to your swimming lesson. When you got back, there was something unexpected in the living room:

A three-foot unicorn, floating up at the ceiling. Near it, battery-powered tea candles were glowing. New age music was playing on the stereo. The “Angel of the Sea,” which has been in our house for over 20 years, was sitting near the base of the unicorn, with a tea candle in her lap. I came in from the back yard, and you said, “Um, Aby – what happened here?”

“You know, sweetie – I’m not sure. I was out back grilling the chicken, and when I came back in, it looked like this.”

You looked at me, looked back at the unicorn. Lisa was still in the garage.

“Ana! There’s something in here you need to see!”

Lisa walked in, and was appropriately shocked. “Whoa, what’s this? And what’s that at the unicorn’s base?”

You looked and saw that the unicorn was tethered down by a purple box, which you’d later discover was full of Halloween-sized candy. There was a scroll stuck in a loop in the ribbon. It was stained and wrinkled with age. You opened it and tried to read it.

“Too many words – Aby, you read it to me.”

We got on the sofa, and I carefully unrolled the scroll. Then in my most measured, dramatic voice, I read…

You listened in silence, motionless. Then you looked back up at the unicorn. You were quiet for a while after that, and we let you just process the whole thing.

Elena, you will turn seven on Christmas Day, and fantasy thinking is already abandoning you. I’m pretty sure you don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Faerie, but you cling to them a little because, honestly, the world is a much better place with a Tooth Faerie, isn’t it? Or maybe you pretend to believe in it just to soothe the grown-ups around you.

But you seemed to treat the Vaccination Unicorn as a bit special. When your mom showed up to pick you up, you immediately dragged her in to see the unicorn, and showed her the scroll. Mary, bless her, was every bit as awed by it as you were.

Then it was time for you to leave with her, and the miracle of November 2021 took place. Six months, a year ago, your first words would have been to ask if you could take the unicorn balloon home. But as you and Mary were leaving, I asked if you didn’t want to take it.

You paused, obviously conflicted. But your sense of mission, which burns bright in you, won the day.

“No… the unicorn needs to go visit some other kid.”

With a brief look back, you went out the door with your mom.