Friday, May 30, 2008

Elegy for a White Donkey

Parenthood is full of small absurdities. Yesterday, I discovered the entirety of the alphabet (in magnet form) inside my Doc Martens. Instead of wondering what my life was coming to, I merely thought, “Oh THAT’S where those went.” I often think of my mother-in-law, who once opened the freezer to discover the ice cube tray contained not only ice, but several Han Solo action figures “frozen in carbonite.” I think I can just be grateful for the moment that I don’t have a boy, because I don’t think I could handle waking up with an excruciating pain in my back to discover that I was lying on Action Man. At any rate, I digress.

The absurdity came to a head yesterday afternoon while on a routine shopping trip with The Prawn. Due to the misery of the weather, she was safely ensconced inside her rain bubble cockpit with trusty sidekick, Sir Humphrey Bollagaurd as I completed my errands. When I came to Waitrose in order to purchase cupcake making supplies for the up coming natal festivities of Mr. DD and my virtual sister-in-law, I glanced down, and discovered, to my horror, that Humphrey was, in fact, AWOL.

“You’ve lost Humphrey!” I said out loud, and promptly burst into tears.

I blame my mother for this.

When I was small, she managed to instill a sense of extreme empathy that lingers with me today and unfortunately includes the anthropomorphication of inanimate objects. “Oh no!” she’d say, upon waking me up in the morning, “Bear fell out of bed! He must have had an awfully cold and lonely night on the floor.” Of course, this would emotionally cripple me for the day, imagining Bear spending the night on the floor, gazing up at me sadly, and wondering why I would be so callous as to ACCIDENTALLY KNOCK HIM OFF THE BED IN MY SLEEP.*

An instant search was mounted. I retraced my steps and stops all around town. I called back at shops I’d been in and shops along the route to see if anyone had handed Humphrey in. Then I did it again. And a third time. The town of Berkhamstead was treated to the sight of a grown woman with streaked mascara desperately hunting for a stuffed donkey.

The Prawn, meanwhile, who still has the short term memory of a goldfish, was fairly content to go along for the ride. She, of course, has no concept of “gone” or “lost”; to her, Humphrey simply IS. “Humfra!” she said happily, from time to time, deepening my despair as it became apparent that dear Sir Humphrey was nowhere to be found.

I wept bitterly all the way home, the Prawn in the backseat, happily oblivious. I could not help but imagine the sense of abandonment this well loved donkey must have felt as he tumbled from the buggy into the rainy street. I’m a 33 years old and I was devastated by the loss of this stuffed toy that my daughter had brought to life, just by loving him. I felt miserable and utterly absurd. Mr. DD was equally devastated when I tearfully informed him of the tragedy over the phone. I prefaced my confession with “Something awful happened!” leading him to believe that I’d crashed the car. I love that I married a man who would have PREFERED that I’d crashed the car.

The only thing that kept the disaster from becoming a catastrophe was that for once, the two of us had some foresight. Months ago, when it was obvious that Humphrey was becoming a fast favourite, we bought a “stunt double.” (This is when we discovered that he was, in fact, a pony called Parsley. It was a bit like finding out that your high school English teach that you had a crush on was gay.) Stunt Humphrey has been used once or twice when the One True Humphrey has been indisposed; either in the washing machine or left behind at Grandad’s house. The Prawn, of course knows only that Humphrey is white and soft, and has never been bothered by these substitutions, so when we returned from our ill fated trip, I went, with heavy heart, to the toy shelf to deploy Stunt Humphrey into active duty. In my head, I asked whatever spirit that formerly inhabited his predecessor to imbue the New Humphrey with the same spark of life, and then tentatively handed him to the Prawn, who’s face lit up as she embraced him.

To her, he is the One True Humphrey and always has been.


Aunt Becky said...


Oh Rockmama, you poor dear.

Heather said...

Oh boy, we so understand your dilemma in our house. Before I even had a child, I spend several hours retracing my FIL's steps when he was visiting with our 4-year-old niece and they lost Mikey (a stuffed rabbit that she loved more than anything). Sad to say, I never found Mikey and my MIL made her a new bunny, but he was never Mikey.

When we had our DD and she fell in love with Bear, we did buy an exact replica, just in case. She's seven now and has both of them, but only one of them is the original and true Bear, now called Mr. Bear as she never named him and when she was around 5 someone asked her what his name was repeatedly and she finally looked them square in the eye and said "MR. BEAR".

Sorry to hear Humphrey is lost, but glad you have a backup.

lisalou said...

I can totally relate!
I have a tea bag sized bunny that I've had since I was born. I am 32. And for, I'd say, the first 20 odd years of my life I would and could not sleep with out it. Now, it hovers around the vicinity of my bed and sometimes I catch the Hubster sleeping with it.