Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Brother the Hero

Abby has a pair of dolls that I've mentioned a few times before. Though their names keep changing from Abby and Obibah to whatever the latest flavor of the week is (currently Elsa and Anna), their importance to her does not. To anyone who asks- and even those who don't- she refers to them as her mermaid dolls because she cleverly figured out long ago that slipping a legwarmer over their lower halves makes them look as though they each have a big, long, colorful fin.

Abby (aka Elsa) left, Obibah (aka Anna) right

Important though they are, I would not call them a security blanket of any kind, thankfully. While they are definitely her most treasured possessions, and she spends a good percentage of the day doting on them, she is not often to be found carrying them around. This is a plus since it means that she's generally very understanding about my rule that we not take them to friends' houses (for fear that they will be forgotten and since she can't bring herself to share them, anyway), and a minus because it's often not until she's tucked into bed that she will remember that she forgot to bring them upstairs with her for the night.

Changing up the fin patterns.

For three nights I dutifully retrieved them, until Tom and I decided that we needed to put our foots down. It was her responsibility, we told her, to remember to bring the dolls up, and should she forget from then on she would need to skip them for the night. (Lest you think us cruel since she is a mere three years old, she spends plenty of nights without them when she forgets to ask about them at all.) The first night we laid down the law there were a few tears, but not many, and an uneventful night passed by.

The next evening, empty-handed once again, she inquired about them. I apologetically suggested that maybe we could both try to remember for the following day, but it was now time for bed. She was cooperative, but mumbled something about not being able to find them, and it was at that point that I remembered she had made the same comment to herself several times earlier that afternoon. I promised her that I would look for them while she was sleeping, and in the morning they could all play again.

Later in the evening, feeling a bit unnerved, I began my search. The longer it turned up empty, the sicker I began to feel. Already fraught with guilt about the possibility that I was being too hard on her, I was now terrified of the notion that somehow the dolls had well-and-truly disappeared for good. Our house is small, and though Abby has the run of a great deal of it she doesn't tend to go many places within. I couldn't imagine where they could have gotten to.

Every scenario I imagined involving her grandparents' homes I was able to quickly rule out. We'd been back from NJ for a few weeks, and I had definitely seen the dolls since our overnight visit at Mima and Granda's. Instead I kept going back to a memory from childhood in which I had, with the pure curiosity and innocence of a four-year-old, deposited a brand new shoe in my bedroom trashcan and later found out from experience what happens to objects that are put in the trash.

Abby has no trashcan in her bedroom, and I was fairly certain that she knew full well what the kitchen trash was for, but still I worried. Tom's secondary sweep had come up empty as well, and I was near tears as I laid down for bed that night. How would I comfort her if the dolls could not be found? What could I say?

Morning came, and it being a Friday, Tom was home for the day. He promised Abby as she ate her breakfast that he and she could search together later; they'd make a thing of it. She seemed pleased by the notion and not nearly as stressed about the situation as I was, so while I descended the basement stairs with heavy heart, it was business as usual for the littles.

I'd done all the searching I had the strength to do and instead took up residence in my usual spot on the futon to rest for a bit and try to muster the energy to face the day. Abby went to sit at her desk, intent on coloring, and Mia and Michael wandered the room. It was not long before I heard a shout of triumph from my little guy, however. I'm not sure how aware he even was of the situation, but he'd been puttering about the playhouse and had the good sense to open the little mailbox attached to it. Guess who was stuffed inside?

The mailbox that neither Mommy nor Daddy thought to check.

The mystery was solved and the day was won. Michael got a big, excited hug from me and a reaction he likely wasn't expecting. I told him we should have a hero party for him, and- he being a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh- elicited a pleased little giggle. As for Abby, she was pleased to see her friends again, but having never experienced the crazy doubt that I did, simply snatched them up and continued on, business as usual. I have yet to see her put them in that same spot since, though she does still love to stuff them in small places. Just tonight, when seeking them out for a photo, I found them curled up tightly together inside a knit hat.

Loves to keep us on our toes, my Abby does. That's all well and good, so long as she remembers where the dolls last were. My heart couldn't take the strain of another loss.