Of course for the child, it’s the stuff of nightmares, and having lost things I care about, I totally get that. But what has caught me unawares was the anxiety, the pain, that I as mother would feel over a toy that I have no personal attachment to.
Ameli never had a security blanket or a dummy or even a toy that she favoured above others, until last August, when my sister bought her a stuffed elephant at The Rain Forest Cafe in Disneyland Paris. “Rainy”, as he was dubbed, quickly became a new member of our family, and while he might end up in the toy box from time to time, he is still the preferred bed time buddy.
Yesterday we had to take our car in for a service, and despite my protestations, Rainy came in with us. Come bed time, of course, we realised that Rainy hadn’t come home, so we assumed that he had stayed in the car – there were many tears, but after assuring her that Rainy was probably loving his sleepover in what must feel like a campervan to him, all snuggled up comfortably in the car seat, Ameli finally succumbed to sleep.
This morning, we went to collect the car from the service station, and unfortunately, Rainy wasn’t in it. So we had to retrace our steps from yesterday – leaving the car we walked down the hill where a tourist asked for directions to the Waitrose, so we walked her there. From there we popped in to the charity shop to look at their camping equipment, before heading home.
The charity shop. Where they sell second hand things.
My stomach sank. I remember her having Rainy in the charity shop.
I develop a lump in my throat, and my head starts whirring… if Rainy is gone, I could probably find a replacement online. How much would it be? Maybe £20? Money I really don’t have to spend on a replacement soft toy right now! What about if I find a picture of rainy and Photoshop it onto a picture of the Eiffel Tower and send it to Ameli as a postcard, saying he’d gone back to France to visit Family? Maybe I could get her dad to pick a replacement up in London. Maybe I could… maybe… what if.
We walked into the Charity shop and it wasn’t behind the counter, where you might imagine someone would put an item that had been handed in.
Ameli makes a beeline for the toy shelf, and there, nestled in among all the other soft toys, is Rainy.
My heart skips a beat. She starts uncontrollably sobbing, burying her face into my belly, clutching Rainy like he is simply the most valuable thing on earth.
I’m trying to explain to the shop attendant what has happened, and while she may not have believed me, when Ameli raises her face and it’s a mixture of laughter and tears, there’s no denying: this little girl has been reunited with someone she loves.
Any my heart is simultaneously breaking for her distress, and rejoicing for her happiness. I reach out for Rainy and give him the biggest hug and say “Welcome back! We missed you!” and my little girl throws her arms around both of us.
The shop assistant says something like “He was helping us count the other animals, thanks so much!” and I give her a nod of appreciation, as my mind begins to comprehend that they could easily have sold Rainy!
And so our day goes on, bed time comes and Rainy is back safely tucked up with his best friend Ameli, who loves him so much.
And for tonight I love him a too – because he is someone deeply loved by someone I love deeply.