Thursday, May 28, 2009

Love Thursday: A Faithful Companion

On Mary's first birthday, she received a stuffed animal. It was a dog. She loved it immediately. "Goggy!" she crooned. It quickly became her constant companion.

The name on the dog's tag said "Spunky." Being a dog owner my entire life, I couldn't bear to let that moniker stand, so we (the gathered family) tossed out some names that might be a better fit. I don't remember who came up with Wilson ( honestly, I think it was me...) but everyone agreed that it was a solid name and would work well for Mary's new stuffed canine companion.

In the beginning, Wilson and Mary were inseparable. To paraphrase the nursery rhyme, everywhere that Mary went, Wilson was sure to go. Nap time, bedtime, dinner, playing, trips, doctor visits, church--if Mary was there, Wilson could be found somewhere nearby offering his quiet friendship.

As the years passed and Mary grew in independence, she relied on Wilson a little less for some things but he was still her bedtime buddy. Often, frantic searches ensued as bedtime neared and Mary couldn't remember where she'd last left him. "Wiiillllson!!" we'd call as if he were real. I guess in some ways, he became real to us. He developed his own stuffed dog personality. "Wilson doesn't like peas," she'd say. "Wilson is tired. Would you read him a story. He really likes stories," she'd tell us.

Soon, we were giving him attributes as well. "Wilson loves popcorn," someone would offer. "Poor Wilson. I don't think he likes thunderstorms." Or "Wilson needs a bath, but I think he'll fight you on it. He seems to like being a dirty dog." "Wilson speaks with a posh English accent." Wilson had become part of our family.

These days, Wilson isn't seeing as much of the world as he used to. He doesn't leave Mary's bedroom much. Mostly he stays in her bed, awaiting her return. Some mornings Mary will have him cradled in her arms as she comes down the stairs, but it's not frequent. Yesterday, she asked to take him with her when we ran an errand. It was the first time in recent memory that she wanted him to go.

Mary will turn 5 this summer. I'm seeing her growth in many ways; her legs have gotten longer, her face less babyish and more like that of a young girl, she's getting a new tooth, she's bolder in some ways than she used to be--she's more willing to leave me and do things on her own. It is bittersweet, this growing up thing. I am happy to see her growing strong and confident and healthy. On the other hand, she is my youngest and it is all magnified as it will be the last time I experience any of this firsthand.

I remember rocking Mary to sleep. She clutched Wilson in one hand and stroked his ears with the other to soothe herself to sleep. Somewhere along the line, she dropped that habit and just took to cuddling him. Then, as she grew even more, she would set Wilson on the pillow beside her, adding some distance between them. She still wants him near, but doesn't necessarily need his constant contact. At some point in the future, she is going to decide that she doesn't need to sleep with him at all. She will decide that he should sit on her closet shelf or be placed in her treasure box to keep, where he will be a touchstone, a memory. Hmmm....I am seeing some similarities here. (Excuse me while I blow my nose.)

Thank goodness we are not there yet! Wilson is still the one Mary tells secrets to. She still frets a little when he needs to go in the wash; she wants to be sure he will be dry by bedtime. Wilson has even acquired a "friend." "Julie" the pink stuffed giraffe was a Christmas present. Mary decided that he would make a good wife for Wilson. "She can keep him company when I'm gone." So now Wilson and Julie have become a couple. They wait in Mary's bed. They have been the subjects of frantic bedtime searches. They keep each other company, just as Mary intended.

Wilson has lost some of his plumpness. He is floppy in places he wasn't before. Some of his fur has been loved right off, ala The Velveteen Rabbit. Yes, he has been loved. He has done his work well. I'm grateful that he will have more time with us as Mary's quiet, faithful companion. Because the longer he stays, the longer my little girl stays little.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone! May you be loved until your fur falls off.

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