My daughter was an awful sleeper. No, that’s not right to say. Rather, I was terrible at knowing when to put her down, was terrified of letting her cry and did everything wrong that a first time mother often does. I read books, but had no instinct. Nothing felt right or natural, and I felt like I would never, could never, be a good mother.
But all of those different sleep books I read shared a few pieces of the same advice. One of which was give your child a lovey. So I did. Each day before my daughter’s nap I chose a different stuffed animal that she had in her room. It didn’t seem that any of them “took”. She didn’t appear to care for any of them. It could have been that I never had the foresight to give the loveys more time in the crib with her. I switched them out, sure that we hadn’t found the right one.
One day I tossed in a fluffy, anthropomorphic looking lamb. Lammie Pie was discreetly embroidered on his chest. “Maybe this one,” I thought. I gave it to her, and she gave it a hug. I noticed his feet were filled with some kind of bead material. I imagined her chewing it in her crib, the beads getting eaten, etc. “I’ll take him out when this nap is over,” I thought. But when she awoke and I came to retrieve Lammie Pie out of the crib, she clutched him tightly and didn’t want to let me have him.
And that is the start of the greatest love story ever told.
He never left the crib. He was always in there, for every nap. She began asking for him when she played. She started carrying him around the house all the time. Then he began to come to the park. He gained full fledged, four star general level Lovey Status. He started coming to every family vacation, to the store, to the bathroom for potty training, Santa began buying him outfits each Christmas, he went down slides and swings and appeared in every family photo.
Sometimes he’d be forgotten for a trip to the store, but not for big trips. Except one. He was somehow forgotten on a routine trip to my mother’s. Jay died on that trip. Not that there was any correlation, but God damn it, if there was a time ever that we needed Lamb, that was fucking it. She hated Lamb after Jay died. Then she called him Jay for awhile. Then she renamed him Jayden for months and months, as if that were a disguise no one would pick up on. My husband and I also had to call him Jayden and it was torture. We watched as she pulled him, stamped on him, stuffed him in a drawer and repeatedly asked if she could throw him away. My husband and I were as cool as we possibly could be, offering to put him away if she wanted, but said we would not throw him away. She knew we were all attached to Lamb. It was her way of expressing all of her aggression towards the situation and the two people who were not supposed to let something like this happen: Us.
When she finally reconnected with Lamb, a collective sigh was felt through the entire family. It wasn’t just me. I could see it on my husband’s face. “Thank God he’s back.”
Last week, I took my daughter to a beautiful summer day camp near the ocean. Lamb was along for the ride, of course. We got out of the car and she asked me to hold him while she climbed a tree before the camp started. I carefully placed him on my left shoulder, adjusting him several times until I could walk freely with him nestled into my neck. I’m not going to lie. I like him there. I like that he is there with us, and with her. It is no longer just her lovey. It is the family’s lovey. We are all weirdly attached to him. If our family had a flag or a crest, he would be on it.
She climbs the tree and I watch her, my head tilted slightly towards Lamb. I’m thinking about how special he is. She says to me, “Mama…..Lamb.” I walk over and dutifully hand him over, even though I am secretly digging hanging out with him. I won’t post the pic set I took with him in our backyard a few weeks ago, just he and I. She wants to put him in the tree with her and show him how to climb it. I watch her with him. She’s excited to show him everything. I think about how she is going to be eight this year, and that there will be one day when she will be too embarrassed to do this with him. One day he will be relegated to her bed once more. But for now, we are watching his day in the sun and it is glorious to behold.
She brings him to her nose and breathes deeply. “He smells like home.” I couldn’t believe that in this instant we were both thinking about how wonderful he is. It makes me happy that the smell of home is special to her.
Her camp is a farm that sits on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean. This is what heaven looks like, but it was cold as shit and I didn’t bring a coat. “Baby, I’m gonna take off.” I go to get Lamb and her face changes.
“Mama, can I keep him at camp?”
“Baby, you lost that stuffed bunny here 2 days ago.”
“I’ll keep him in my backpack the whole day.”
She wants him with her. She knows the gravity of the situation, and that I am afraid to lose him. He’s like the family touchstone. I can see how much she wants him, though, and I won’t let my anxiety over this make the decision.
“Ok, baby. Keep him in the top pocket. Close the zipper.” I watch as she secures him. And I walk away and get in the car and think about what I would do if we lost him, how we would deal and how long she would hurt. When I go pick her up, it’s one of the first questions I ask before we leave the camp.
“Do you have Lamb?”