The house is a gingerbread house, the setting is pastoral, idyllic, out-of-this-world; even the little girl's name, Annalee, has a mellow, timeless ring. But it's all a stratagem--to isolate her situation, the tedium and longing of her wait for her departed mother to return, from the quotidian; to make her Everychild. So it is with the little things that Annalee, waiting in the tall grass near the gate, mistakenly takes as signs that her mother is back--a voice, singing (""But it was only a bird, chirping in a tree""); a ""good"" smell (""the roses growing on the fence""); a rustle in the grass (""only the wind blowing across the hill""). These too are common property--and most immediately the last, a ladybug crawling on her leg (""Stop it, Mama,"" Annalee giggles). Then, when she hears a noise and doesn't turn around, of course her mother is there: ""I bet you didn't even know I was gone."" For the listening child, who knows better, it's one of those perfect wrap-ups that turns the story back on itself. And that still, boundless setting is also a metaphor for the stop-time endlessness of Annalee's wait. One small idea, wholly realized.