Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Of Stuffed Animals and Disappearances

A little over two years ago, when we first moved to this house, my then-partner announced that JT didn't need to have so many stuffed animals. She boxed up much of the herd and stored them in the basement never to be heard from again. JT would occasionally mention the missing stuffies, but soon he seemed to have forgotten about them. He was growing up and sought different toys to play with.

It was an odd decision on her part, but I didn't stop her. Now I think that she was preparing him for another kind of departure from his life. Like the disappearance of the stuffies, which was sudden and unwarranted, she just disappeared from his life one day last June. He was 6 years old. She came back a week later to explain that she was leaving for good. My son shed tears and asked why. She just shrugged. How can the breakup of a family ever be explained? I brought some of the stuffies back upstairs to his bedroom, to surround him with love to replace the loss that Lisa left in her wake.

Afterward, he would occasionally mention her. He would talk about things that we had done as a family. But, as with the disappearance of the stuffies, soon he quit asking about her. And soon after that, he began to reformulate his memories of our family of three to be memories of a family consisting of just he and I.

But here's the ironic part of the story. Since she left, Lisa has provided JT with a steady supply of stuffies. She's brought him the occasional stuffed animal and during some of her weekly visits she's taken him to Build-a-Bear where he has happily constructed new friends to join the herd. He brings them home and shows them to me. Then he introduces him to the herd. And the new stuffed beast then languishes there, sometimes invited to sleep with a growing boy, but mostly ignored.

Somehow I think that this is exactly the role that Lisa has in his life these days. He smiles when he sees her; she's a familiar friend just like the dusty stuffed monkey in the basket in his room. She's welcome for the hours they spend together. But though she may have once been essential, she's no longer a necessary part of his life. She's part of the past, growing further away every day.

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