Friday, November 15, 2013

Always Have a Backup Plan

Yesterday was tough at my house.

E2 left Boppo in her mom's car and didn't miss him until nap time and had no idea where he might be. Once we located him, she was able to stop crying, but it was hard to go to sleep. She woke up crying, which could have been just because she typically doesn't wake up good or because she was still missing the little creature.

Her mom said when she got home, E2 was so excited to see him that she cried. Really. Tears of joy. She said she almost joined in.

Boppo, you see, is E2's "lovey." He's generally an omnipresent part of everything we do. If he's not along for the activity, we usually know exactly where he is and how far we have to walk for them to be reunited (back to the house or car). He's the hippo equivalent of Duck, who has been E1's chosen love. Although lately she has been able to leave him behind and choose a different toy for her companion, he's generally been a part of our life for most of those four years.

A day without Boppo, well, it was tough.

He didn't start out that way. He was a soft, pink and tan, floppy toy pulled from a gift on E2's first Christmas. A present from my mom, he didn't seem all that remarkable and not something E2 immediately fell in love with. In fact, it was E1 who held him for that first picture.

My mom had apparently removed all tags, preparing him to be loved, which became a problem in later years.

You see, I'm a devious Ma. When E1 fell hard for Duck, a similarly misshapen turquoise and yellow toy, it didn't take long before we realized how horrible it would be if something happened to the toy. He went everywhere with her and was a requisite for sleep. More prone to emotional meltdowns, if she got in the car and realized she had left him behind, she would be distraught.

Using his tag as a reference point, I went on Ebay and looked for another duck. I found one that appeared, on the surface, to be identical, although I had failed to note a different pattern in his cloth appendages. It also turned out he was a couple of inches smaller than Duck. Since E1 was still quite young, we were able to send in a ringer now and then. Like when E1 had a meltdown because Duck was at home, but Mom called ahead and he flew to meet her at Ma's house. Because Duck already had some miles on him before we needed to make the switch, she often looked at him a bit questioningly, but couldn't comprehend that there might be two Ducks or quite figure out the difference. Once her attachment eased a little earlier this year, we introduced her to Drake, Duck's little brother and she accepted that he had helped out as a substitute Duck.

Because of Boppo's tag removal, when I tried to find a second soft hippo, (Boppo is how E2 pronounces hippo) I hit a roadblock. Not that there weren't hippos -- there are literally thousands of them on Ebay every day. Hippos, it seems, are a very popular stuffed animal, especially when you have no identifying marks. There's the hippo from NCIS, the dancing hippos from Walt Disney, the hippo from Madagascar and countless other unnamed aquatic mammals of all shapes and sizes. Although I periodically visited Ebay (where you can find anything if you know how to hunt), I always came up dry.

Then, earlier this year, in the recurring insanity of loading three small children and their daily gear into their mom's minivan, Boppo somehow got left at my house. It was almost a 911 call before I located him in the playroom. I put him to bed on a footstool with a friend and sent a picture to E2. She finally managed to go to sleep, knowing he was OK, but it was a bad evening at their house. I renewed my search for Boppo's twin with a vengeance. Finally, during a long, hot, summer afternoon as we sheltered on the front porch coloring and watching the baby bounce in her exersaucer, there he was. I showed E2 the picture. "Boppo," she proclaimed with accusation in her voice as though he'd taken a modeling job and got on the internet without her permission, or perhaps was sneaking around and joined some on-line dating site where his philandering ways were about to be unearthed. (Well, that's what I would have wondered if I found a picture of my most loved on line anyway.) I didn't waste any time agreeing to his "buy it now" price and soon Boppo 2.0 was residing in my closet, looking suspiciously fresh and pink, but ready to step in with his tag also removed..

It wasn't too long after that when I received another one of those calls. Boppo was home in the dryer and had been forgotten, could B2 step in? Since hippos don't fly, I had to smuggle him to the car as Mom insisted he was hiding up front with her. A reverse substitution took place when they got home. He came back to my house and the closet, but when an unexpected round of food expulsion caught Boppo 1 a few weeks later, he stepped up to the plate again. To avoid vacation catastrophes, both Boppos accompanied them on their recent trip to Florida.

Now they are virtually identical as there have been a lot of substitutions and baths, but they reside at the Es' home because no matter how rough a nap may get, bedtime is far more important. I see one of them most every day, although occasionally E2 opts to bring a different toy. It does, however, have to be her decision. So yesterday there was a happy reunion when they all arrived home, and I imagine today she'll keep him extra close to make up for his defection.

E3 to date only requires a two sided cuddly/slick blanket and there is a large and small version to keep her happy as long as we don't leave both at the same house. I expect, however, that she'll follow in her sisters' footsteps when she gets a bit older and that some unlikely creature will become her companion.

When that happens, I hope no one has removed the tags. And that Ebay can once again deliver backup security to a little girl.

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