Lovey lost – and found
He gave the stunningly accurate description to Big Guy's karate instructor yesterday on the first of our stops in search of El, the raggedy elephant lovey that's been with Boots since he was a baby.
Karate class was the last place Boots had remembered seeing El. We discovered at bedtime that he was missing. "I just can't sleep without him," Boots moaned.
I searched the car. I searched downstairs. Nothing.
"We're going to have to call the police," Boots said. "OK? Good night." He nodded off within seconds, belying his pleas of insomnia just minutes earlier.
The quick turnaround was a little stunning, but only a little. Big Guy was just a few months older than Boots is now when he discovered that the world didn't love his lovey. I expected it to take Boots longer to reach that realization - he's always been more attached to El than Big Guy was to Bear - but I knew the day was drawing near.
Was this the day?
That idea bothered me as I listened to him snore, his arm crooked as if he were hugging the missing El. While I've always been careful not to push the loveys on the guys, I readily admit that I'm eager to play along.
In recent weeks, El has explored new depths of playfulness. If you tap his trunk, he trumpets. Bonk his head and he cries. Push the heart on his belly and he giggles. Shake his left hand and he nuzzles and coos "I love you." I shake his left hand a lot, and I knew I would miss that if El were gone for good.
The next morning, Boots woke up and wanted to know if El had come back. No, I said. "We definitely need to call the police." They might be a little busy, but we can check the karate building after school, I offered.
We searched the waiting room - no sign. We poked around the mats - not there either. The instructor checked lost and found - nope.
"Please let me call the police," Boots begged, the previous night's bravado evaporated.
"I think we need to look a little longer," I said. "Now, think. Where did you go with him."
"I. Can't. Think. I need the police," he wailed.
"Try," I prodded.
Silence. Maybe he was thinking.
"I know!" he brightened. "I didn't leave him at karate. I remember now. I carried him out."
"Maybe he's still in the car," I said. For that matter, Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhart could still be in the car, hiding amid crumpled snack bags, rumpled beach towels and last year's jackets.
A search of the car revealed nothing. Not Hoffa, not Earhart, not El. At least we didn't have to call the police yet.
"I know! I did take him into the house! I remember now," Boots smiled.
"But where could he be?" I asked as we pulled onto the driveway, and it wasn't a fake "figure it out for yourself" question. I was genuinely stumped. "We tidied the living room last night before bed, and I looked everywhere on the floor."
"Hmmm ... let me think," he said, tapping a finger to his forehead and walking up the sidewalk. "I know! He's in the laundry room! I took him there because he's not bright and shiny anymore. He needs a bath," Boots said, the last part with a shade of reproach.
He ran down the hall and flung open the door as I held my breath. He emerged seconds later, holding El triumphantly.
"See? I told you!"
I shook El's left hand.
Boots might be able to survive a night without El, might even be near ready to let him go. But I'm not.
I shook his left hand again.
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.