On Things We Leave Behind

IMG_20150720_092229241This is a picture of our third child, Lovey Doll.  Marielle inherited this cast off from her older sister, who preferred Elephant.  Since birth, Lovey and Marielle have been near constant companions.  I can’t even guess the amount of parent time that has been spent making sure this treasure was never misplaced.

Sweet dolly is threadbare, covered in layers upon layers of stitches and mends. First, we patched a small hole on the doll’s belly.  The hole grew larger, and by the time Marielle was five, Lovey needed a whole new set of “pajama’s,” carefully sown by Yia Yia (my mom). A couple years later, yet another set of full- patch pajamas was overlayed upon the first set, and a new hat was sewn, too. Hasty black stitches secure head to body.

Marielle wistfully remembers a time when Lovey’s rattle was clear and sharp, before she threw  her down the stairs in a toddler’s rage.  She will tell you that Lovey smells like potatoes, which doesn’t seem to bother her at all, but makes me wonder. For twelve years I have tucked my daughter in to bed with Lovey nestled into the crook of her neck, one arm wrapped round her favorite thing in the world, her fingers rubbing Lovey’s tiny hand until she drifts off to sleep. When Marielle began school, Lovey sat patiently in her special place on the hall table awaiting her return.  When Marielle played in the house, the constant gentle rattle provided this mom with echolocation ability.

My daughter’s security object became my security, too. Because she had respiratory issues when she was young, any  time she had the sniffles, I laid awake, worrying,  listening for the sound of her breathing.  When Marielle shifted in her sleep, Lovey would make her soft, “click,” and I would close my eyes for a few more moments rest. Lovey was just as reliable as any baby monitor we had. For all these reasons, Lovey has always been with us.

This special dolly has travelled by car, train, boat, and plane,  to three different countries and countless states. She has stayed in fine hotels and rain-soaked tents in the woods.  Once, while away from home with my husband, Yia Yia’s daily check in call began with “something bad happened today.” Immediately I thought of broken bones – or worse. When Yia Yia explained that Lovey had been left in the library for the afternoon, rescued just before closing time that night, I agreed . That would have been “something bad” indeed. My heart tugs just imagining how long a two year old would cry herself to sleep without her Lovey.

During the preschool  years, Lovey disappeared for a few days. We searched the house – not in in the freezer (“to keep her cool, Mommy”), in the pantry (poor Lovey, jilted for snacks),  under the bed (always a mess),  and in toys with a hole large enough for her to fit. By chance, Lovey was found playing peek a boo by the front fence when I looked down during a conversation with a neighbor.  Our busy girl must have placed her on the post while playing, not noticing when she fell into the flower bed.  Marielle was surprisingly alarmed at how many of her favorite roly poly’s had found shelter under Lovey. We brushed her off and washed her well. Good as new (although it might explain the potato smell).

Marielle has asked dozens of times if she could keep Lovey forever. “Of course,” I reply. “You may keep Lovey as long as you need her.”  In the back of my mind I wondered, how long would that be? We’ve all  heard legends of furless teddies and blanket scraps snuck off to college.  Would Marielle be attached for that long? I remembered my own, long-forgotten blankie with the green elephants,  wearing orange skirts, and my sorrow at age 5 when it was “lost” in our move.  One of my parents’ child raising missteps I vowed not to repeat.

Then, just the other day, as we readied for a week of sleep away camp,  I received an unexpected answer to my routine, pre-trip question,  “Have you packed Lovey?” Marielle replied with an indifferent, “no.” I gazed at her, not sure what to say. “I didn’t take her on last week’s mission trip either,” she offered.  My mind replayed the nights sleeping on the floor of the church basement with dozens of youth, including my own daughters. How could I have not noticed the absence of the comforting click of the rattle? So, Lovey is spending this week on our nightstand, but the security of being loved, by her family and by God, travel with Marielle wherever she goes.  Thanks be to God for the treasures that we carry in our hearts, those that we never leave behind.

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