When our first daughter was a few months old, we introduced her to her lovey. To the uninitiated, a lovey is some form of silky or soft blanket usually with the detached head of an animal attached to it…though it’s not as grotesque as I just made that sound.
I don’t know why we waited so long to introduce the lovey, probably because that was when we still held on to the idea that we had any sort of control over anything that happened in her life. Like how we checked the box in the hospital that said ‘no pacifier to be given’ only to be frantically pushing the nurse call button approximately 3 hours later while screaming ‘PACIFIER! BRING THE PACIFIER! BRING SEVERAL! HOW MANY DO YOU HAVE? BRING THOSE!’ And the pacifier lasted the next 5 years. We know nothing. We control nothing.
Anyway, after what I imagine was a 2am Google session ‘why is my baby not sleeping will I die from this’ we dug the lovey out of a box of as yet unused gifts. I would set the lovey on her, between her hands, whenever I nursed her. Which was always and infinity plus forever.
And it worked. It really worked. She fell in love with the lovey, creatively named Bunny because, well, it had a dismembered bunny head attached to the blankie part. As it turns out she was a pretty decent sleeper anyway (thanks, perspective and hindsight!) and Bunny made things even better.
Bunny had other uses as well. He soothed her in the car, a place she hated with the heat of 10,000 suns until she was almost 1 and 1/2 years old. He comforted her after shots, during a fever, after a particularly scary game of peek-a-boo. He made her smile, she stroked his silky underbelly (“the green”) and tweaked his furry topside and he came absolutely everywhere with us. And by ‘came’ I mean ‘comes’ because she is 5 and this guy still lives on, thanks to several head re-attachment surgeries done by yours truly.
It wasn’t long after we introduced her to Bunny that we realized the problem with our plan. Bunny was a gift, made by a friend, and therefore seemed special.
But that is what made him TOO special. Special as in unique. TOO unique. Literally one-of-a-kind. He was irreplaceable. And so began the still ongoing period of our lives where the only thing I keep a closer eye on in an airport than Bunny is our actual child. Children. If we were evacuating this country I’d say the only things I really need are the children and the bunny. I see those backpacks with leashes on them that people use on their kids and I think “I need this for Bunny.”
I took both my girls, then 3 years old and 2 months old respectively, on a day trip to Tokyo in late February 2014. No one knows why I embark on these misadventures but we can only assume it’s some kind of missing piece of genetic code.
It was a sweaty, furious day of trains, Indian food and hockey games. Ves was a champ, as she tends to be on an adventure, and ran herself ragged. But at the end of the night she was tired, so tired, so as we waited for Dave to come out and take us on the team bus, she sat with her Bunny on the curb. Stroking the green, holding him with a tenderness that will bring a tear to your eye if I describe it in too much detail so I’ll spare you that.
An hour or so later, once the excitement of being on a bus with a bunch of hockey players had worn off, our big girl was over it. She wanted to get cozy and shut down. So she asked for Bunny. But he wasn’t on the seat. Or in the bag. Or my pocket. Or Dave’s pocket. Or anywhere. Dave kept up the search, but I knew after a few minutes. Bunny was gone. Lost at night. In the rain. On the streets of Tokyo.
What ensued next was a panicked parenting brainstorming session. How do we tell her? Do we lie? Do we run to the front of the bus and jerk the wheel into a concrete barricade to end all our suffering? All options were considered.
The other import players on this bus stared on in horror, childless and unencumbered by the weight of keeping track of Bunny, but also feeling very unlucky to even be involved in this situation at all.
First they tried to ease the tension with jokes. No one was laughing.
Then they tried to comfort our child with distraction, which showed just how little they understood the gravity of it all.
Then they put their headphones in and probably said something to themselves that started with “When I have kids I’ll never…” and you know what you guys?! Famous last words. Famous. Last. Words.
We told her the truth. And she handled it how you’d expect someone to deal with the news of the loss of their best friend. She wept. Quietly. She leaned her tiny head against the glass of the bus window and lamented:
Bunny will be so lonely. It’s so dark. It’s raining.
Bunny is a part of me. How can he be gone? We are part of each other.
I love Bunny. I love him and I can’t sleep without him.
I’m a fully formed adult with highly honed rationalization skills, yet I held back tears through burning eyes and a bit lip. Plus that last one really felt like a threat and mama is tired you guys. Mama is so tired.
On the bus was one other mother, my lovely friend Yukina. A mother who didn’t understand most of the words we were saying but understood the pain of my baby crying.
Without us knowing, she texted a friend. And her friend, who I had never met in my entire life, left her warm, dry apartment at 10pm on a Sunday night, took the subway, and embarked on a search for Bunny outside in the rain. She enlisted a security guard and his flashlight. And she found him.
SHE FUCKING FOUND HIM ARE YOU GETTING THAT!?
Yukina called to me from the front of the bus and held up her phone. On the screen was a picture of Bunny, wet and dirty and sitting on a barren table. Like a ransom photo from the next Taken movie. This anonymous savior overnighted Bunny to us the next day. No mail was ever as anticipated or appreciated.
Almost two years later I took my girls on a trip to Seattle from Tokyo. We packed Bunny safely in the bottom of Vesper’s backpack. She checked him once, twice, before we left for the airport.
For the rest of the trip I didn’t worry about him. Because she never took him out. She slept with her sister in her arms, her hands empty. She didn’t ask for him when she got nervous in the Space Needle. She didn’t cry for him when she skinned her knee doing her signature dangerous running.
I wanted to feel free from the burden of watching over Bunny. I wanted to feel liberated from the insane amount of body odor that searching for that bastard has given me. I wanted to feel joy that she had grown up and out of Bunny in a natural way.
But I was sad. Because she’s growing up fast and she’s letting go of baby things. Because she isn’t a baby. And it’s wonderful and I’m glad but shit. Shit. Damn.
A few days ago Vesper was having a tough one. A hard day. Numerous injustices had befallen her, mostly related to having to share with her sister and being denied cupcakes. Her nerves were already on edge when she took a spill on her scooter. And that was it. Hysteria.
I sat with her, rubbing her back, waiting since waiting is all you can really do. Finally she gathered her voice enough to say Mommy, I need Bunny.
We dug him out of the backpack where he’d waited. She hugged him, stroked the green, took in his smell. She held him in her hands. Not the chubby, dimpled hands of a baby. But the slender, scraped up hands of a small girl. She stopped crying.
We were both happy.