You know you are a bad mother when the lovey goes missing. Patrick disappeared last fall when we were raking leaves. One minute my fourth grader and his friend were riding bikes up and down the drive and through the yard with Patrick the bear peeping from a sweatshirt pocket. The next minute Patrick was gone. Really, really gone.
We went through all the piles of leaves. We combed the field behind the house where we found Peter’s shoes last spring. We pulled apart couches and organized toy boxes and dug through every bin in the barn. No Patrick.
If you have ever had a lovey yourself, if you have ever nurtured your own Velveteen Rabbit or scruffy polar bear, you know what happened next. Peter mourned. He couldn’t sleep. He cried to his dad on the ship. He colored and cut out a paper bear to carry instead of Patrick.
If you have never had a lovey, if you think the grubby lovies of small children are nasty, you know what Peter’s teacher did. Ms. Taylor rejoiced.
Ms. Taylor thought this was an excellent time to give up Patrick for good. She saw Patrick as the source of all Peter problems. Just because Peter is on the autism spectrum, just because Peter’s dad is gone so much, Ms. Taylor didn’t think that made Patrick OK.
“Peter is ten years old. Peter is a boy. Peter should not have a bear in his hand,” Ms. Taylor insisted at our parent teacher conference.
I wanted to crawl out of that conference and just cry. Sometimes I suspect that because my husband is at sea so often that the people at school thinks things are not all right at home. Thus the Patrick.
Part of me understands what Ms. Taylor was trying to say. Ms. Taylor was trying to tell me that Patrick at school was an outward symbol that Peter is a little off. He is uncool. Ms. Taylor was trying to tell me that the disdain of fourth graders for little weirdnesses is only outdone by the contempt of fifth graders and the cruelties of middle school.
So I told my husband that we really ought to make Peter man up and give up the Patrick. “I should be like Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom,” I told Brad. “I gotta make that kid give up the Wubbie.”
“Really? Now?” my husband questioned. “Now is the time to give up Patrick?”
And then I remembered that we are a family that is for Peter so we are for Patrick. We know from long nights of separation and millions of cross country trips and a dozen moves that sometimes lovies can do what stressed out human beings cannot.
Lovies can calm. Lovies can soothe. Lovies have no calories. Do not intoxicate. Do not alter brain chemistry. Lovies can comfort in a way that I cannot when I have nothing left to comfort with.
So I got online and found a Patrick for sale at a Christmas store in Ohio. Brad said to buy two. Peter didn’t take the new Patrick to school “cuz I don’t want anything to happen to him.”
Me neither. Someday Peter will be done with Patrick. Patrick will lie forgotten, Velveteen-rabbit-like under the bed. I will rescue him. I plan to hang a ribbon around his sweet belly and hang him on our Christmas tree, a scrap of childhood comfort and joy that we can never let go.