Ms. Hannah's Lullaby

At first, I thought Ms. Hannah to be a godsend. Amidst the chaos of raising two children, her videos became an invaluable part of our parenting. Sometimes she was a currency to be bartered with and any parent would tell you that the hardest negotiations don’t take place in a corporate boardroom or at some G8 summit but in the bathtubs, bedrooms, and living rooms of your home.  

“If you don’t brush your teeth, no Ms. Hannah.” 

“If you don’t listen to Mommy and Daddy then you won’t get to watch Ms. Hannah tonight.” 

These were idle threats and even the toddlers knew it. We needed Ms. Hannah just as much as they wanted to watch her. Because when she wasn’t being dealt in high-stakes bedtime negotiations, she was blissfully distracting our children, offering a brief eye to the storm. The 20-minute episodes gave us a perfect window to clean up messes, throw in laundry, lie down, etc. The power naps were divine. 

The symbiosis she provided was too perfect to ignore. The little hits of dopamine she dispensed from a colorful studio set full of puppets, magical creatures, and songs had a trickle-down effect from child to parent. I should have seen the signs earlier but a happy audience is a docile one and I don’t know any parent that would pass up on a 20-minute power nap.  

The first time I saw it, my brain outright rejected it. Somewhere between a song about apple picking and feeding Terry the Very Magical Unicorn, a tiny, red symbol flashed in the corner. It looked like some sort of hollow, hexagonal waffle and couldn’t have been shown for longer than half of a second. I didn’t think anything of it until later that evening, during our pre-bedtime binge I saw the symbol again, this time in blue. I asked my husband if he noticed it, but he was too busy scrolling on his phone, half awake. 

When the symbol appeared again in green the following afternoon, I finally had enough – I paused Ms. Hannah’s Treetop Castle Friendship Song, just long enough to prove I wasn’t crazy. I traced the symbol with a nearby crayon into a coloring book. Once the kids went down for a nap, I scoured the internet for an answer. Google, Reddit boards, parental Facebook groups, all were dead ends. Perhaps I was crazy. 

That evening after dinner, our eldest came running up to us. She tugged on my sweatshirt fervently. 

“Mom! Mom! We NEED a Terry The Magical Unicorn doll. It’s so amazing. Can we please Mom? Please??” 

“Whoa, slow down squirt. What doll?”

“Terry The Magical Unicorn! From Ms. Hannah! Can we get it? Please?”

Something about her desperation was unsettling. When I informed her that her father and I would need to talk about it, she collapsed to the floor, kicking and screaming. Her clenched fists pounded against the kitchen tile as tears streamed down her face harder than I previously knew possible. Her piercing shrieks reverberated through the whole house and soon, the distant wail of her infant brother stirring from his sleep added to the symphony. It seemed to be reaching a fever pitch when my Husband had enough. He pulled out his phone and quickly found the doll online. 

“What are you doing?” I asked him dumbfounded. 

“Getting the magical whatever doll.”

“Are you serious? You can’t just give in!”

“It’s $30. What the hell’s the difference?”

“We can’t be rewarding her bad behavior and I don’t appreciate being undermined.”

He sighed and rubbed his eyes. Tired was his natural state now. Somewhere behind the dark circles were the same kind, deep-blue eyes I fell in love with all those years ago. And while they sat a bit dimmer under a sunken brow, they spoke as clearly as ever. Please, I don’t want to fight… 

I let out a relenting sigh. “Fine, whatever. I’ll go put him down.” As I turned to hurry out of the kitchen, my daughter’s tantrum ceased like it had never existed at all. She wiped her tears and ran into her father’s arms, sweet as could be. 

“I’m sorry Daddy,” she said, wiping her runny nose on his sleeve. 

“It’s ok baby. Let’s go watch some Ms. Hannah.” 

She lit up like a Christmas tree and jogged into the living room, parking herself on the cushion directly in front of the TV set. 

Don’t get me wrong, she’s genetically predisposed to be dramatic – it runs in the family after all – but this felt different. To pivot from blood curling screams to happy as could be on a dime was unnerving to say the least. I replayed that moment in my head that night and for many nights to come. It was almost as if someone had flipped off a light switch. 

The doll came within 12 hours. It arrived in a purple, castle-themed box that had my daughter literally shaking with excitement. She jumped up and down, barely able to contain herself.

“Mom, look - that’s Ms. Hannah’s Magic Castle on Friendship Mountain! Is Terry inside? Do you think he’s hungry? Does Dad have batteries? I think Unicorns eat batteries…” 

Sure enough, past the packing peanuts was a five-pound fuzzy unicorn doll with a goofy face.

“Here ya go kiddo.”

My daughter wrapped Terry the Very Magical Unicorn up in a big hug.

“I think he’s sleeping. Can we wake him up?”

“Hmm. Let me see…”

She handed him back to me and I looked around for a button or an on-switch. I flipped the switch under his hoof, and Terry sprung to life - his motorized head swiveled and sparkly, animatronic eyes flapped open.

“Well hello there friend! It’s great to meet you. I can’t wait to sing together! Is it time for a lullaby?”

My daughter grinned wildly.

“Yes! Let’s sing Terry!”

She played with the doll all day and night. At dinner, she even set a place mat for him and tried to feed him macaroni through a flying spoon like our father had done with her. She rushed through bathtime faster than ever before, just to get back to Terry. When it was time for bed, I tucked her and Terry under the sheets and kissed her goodnight.

“What about Terry?” she insisted. “Does he get a kiss goodnight?”

“He wishes,” I muttered. 

“Aw c’mon Mom, he’s so cute!”

I begrudgingly kissed the doll goodnight and closed the door. With both kids down and my husband snoring beside me, I decided to give it another go and dove into the Ms. Hannah online forums. Yet again, I came up empty handed, only learning scants of information about the show itself - produced by “Happy Magic Productions” a subsidiary of Elevate Media Group, starring “Ms. Hannah” aka “Hannah T. Barton” an actress from Wales. After two hours and another restless evening, I concluded that whatever I was looking for must have been in my head. 

That was until I went downstairs to grab a glass of water and saw a faint blue light emitting from under my daughter’s bedroom door. I quietly turned the knob to poke my head in. That’s when I saw it – tucked under my daughter’s arm, the same blue symbol I had found in the show pulsating from Terry the Very Magical Unicorn’s open eyes. I stifled a gasp and tip-toed to the edge of her bed, carefully pulling the doll from her grasp and holding it up to my face. I flipped the switch underneath his hoof, yet the doll’s eyes still glowed. 

At this point, something deep and maternal took over. I had enough of Terry the Very Magical Unicorn and Ms. Hannah. I walked into our garage and found the hammer in my husband’s toolkit. It didn’t take long before Terry’s horn, eyes, and legs were scattered across the garage floor and for the first time in several weeks, I slept soundly. 

I half expected to wake up to the sound of my daughter sobbing. Instead, I was shaken awake by my husband’s hand.

“Honey, you gotta get up.”

I rolled over and saw the trouble written across his stubbled face. The door bell was ringing incessantly. Out the front windows I could see two unmarked Suburban trucks with heavily tinted windows parked in our driveway. We opened the door to three large men in perfectly pressed suits. The man in the middle stepped forward and rested his hand on the doorway. 

“Good morning M’am. May we have a word?”

“Who are you? What’s this regarding?” I stammered.

“Unicorns and lullabies M’am. May we come in?”

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