My son's heart belongs to a little stuffed elephant. They've been together for years. You've all heard stories about the dog that waits for his master to come home, or the kid who loves his blanket, or the undying affection of a faithful friend. Kid C's love for Baby the elephant eclipses them all.
You may think I'm joking. I'm not. Adoration is too weak a word for this child's feelings. He snuggles Baby, talks to Baby, sleeps with Baby, and pets Baby. He even wears Baby around on his shoulder like an emaciated parrot.
The only time they're apart is when we pry Baby from his fingers just before Kid C steps on the bus. Then Baby waits by the front door for his return, and Kid C's first words when he steps off the bus are, "Where's Baby?"
They go to church together. Kid C smuggles him into the store, takes him to the swimming pool, parties, the movies, everywhere. They're inseparable. It's as if the entire capacity of my son's heart is invested in this small stuffed animal.
That is why we have a problem. A big problem. Here is Baby.
Baby is dying. And I'm afraid.
What you can't see in this pic are scars from the scores of times Baby has gone under the knife for emergency surgery. This little guy has had more stitches than a shark attack victim. But you can only mend fabric so many times before it breaks down and shreds. Baby is beyond shredding. He's disintegrating on a molecular level.
We had a new "Baby" made because we foresaw this bleak day. But new Baby lies abandoned and alone in the depths of Kid C's closet. There is no love for new Baby. You can't transfer feelings like this from one toy to the other.
My mom suggested we place Baby's remains in a cardboard box and hold a service in the back yard. I can't do it. The grief would be too much. So we'll stand by and watch as Baby loses limbs, or more likely his whole torso. I have no doubt Kid C will then carry Baby's head around on his shoulder and love him all the more fiercely to make up for Baby's loss.
I don't know what we'll do to make up for Kid C's loss when Baby's fibers finally collapse into a dingy pile of dust, but we stand by with new Baby and hope it will be enough.
What favorite toys have your children loved and lost? How about you? Do you have memories of a cherished friend?