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Do you know what a lovey is? Maybe you remember your own or the one you purchased for a child. A lovey is that blanket, doll, rag or toy that was ground zero for happiness and comfort. Without it a young child won’t make a move, much less set out for a day at the office… or Gymboree. The lovey’s soft touch and familiar smell was the touchstone for a content young life. Way before there were cars, clothes, jewelry or iPhones, there was… the lovey. And woe to the parents of a child who loses her lovey in the tumult of a family vacation. Hell, hath no fury like a lovey lost.
My daughter’s lovey was a patch of white blanket, cut down from a larger version, trimmed with satin edges. She appropriately named it White. White was small, soft and traveled well. My daughter’s preferred traveling arrangement was to rub the satin edge against her face while sticking two fingers in her mouth. Upside down. Try it – it’s not so easy.
With White her world was warm, safe and available for napping. Without it the earth’s jaws snapped open and we all plunged into a wailing pit of horror, a sudden descent into family hell until White was located.
I got my first taste of this baby terror after an outing at the local park. We were home just minutes when my toddler, toddled around the house, calling out for her White. In an instant I pictured catastrophe. I was supposed to be eyes on White - that was my job. And I had failed.
Now my eyes met hers as I gave a big, phony smile, “I’m gonna go right out and get White!” And at only 26 months old she saw right through me. Her eyes widened.
“AAAAAAHHHHHH!”, she screamed.
I fled the house, leaving her in better hands.
Mad Dash #1
Racing down the street I was like the Terminator, ruthlessly imaging my environment – the sidewalk, the grass, the trees, the rooftops – everywhere for that 10 x 10 inch square of satiny bliss.
I had to find that lovey. Forget Apollo 13 – failure here really wasn’t an option. The prospect of facing an inconsolable, wailing child was just too much to bear. There was no way I was going home without it.
But I was relatively young, and my eyesight was still sharp. Reaching the park, I spotted White lying there alone, unprotected and so small. I couldn’t believe my luck! The local blankie thieves hadn’t yet spotted it. I snatched up my child’s lovey and, fiercely clutching it, returned home a hero. The wailing dissipated, the tears soon dried and the world was safe once again.
However, the incident gave me a taste of the intense raw emotional trauma I could expect to re-live, should I be less than vigilant about White in the future. I swore an oath to myself to never let this happen again. But… I am just a man.
Mad Dash #2 (Part 1)
Those same sounds of an inconsolable child now played in my mind’s ear as I frantically rummaged through her diaper bag. Nothing. No lovey. And nothing under the airplane seats, either in front or behind us. We were at Miami International Airport and this flight was almost done boarding.
I looked down at her. She was peacefully asleep, but would no doubt wake up somewhere over Kansas and then all three hundred of us would have hell to pay. Me especially.
This had been a fun trip to Florida to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Now it threatened to become an aviation disaster. I jumped to my feet, racing to the front of the plane and dodging the last few stragglers now getting on board.
My destination? The terminal where we had been playing with blocks and dolls just moments before.
I didn’t think anything of jumping off this plane and apparently neither did the flight crew. This was before the days of TSA and the flight attendants seemed satisfied with my departing explanation:
“I’ll be right back. Don’t leave!”
I raced down the empty jetway, scanning every inch of floor, wall and ceiling for any sign of that bad, bad blankie. Racing into the now empty waiting area, I again clicked into Terminator mode, imaging the place for a tiny square of satiny White. I could almost hear the gears behind my eyes zooming in and out, pulling focus and opening wide to let in more light.
But I saw nothing in my field of vision save some left behind cokes, a pair of children’s socks and a few newspapers (this was the late 80’s).
I tried to reconstruct the spot where we had sat and played only moments ago. But now absent all the bodies and luggage, the empty space looked foreign.
So, I climbed on a chair to get a better view and suddenly my sense memory kicked in. I had been here before. Not at this terminal but in this situation – climbing up, scaling a fence, in fact – all to locate and rescue White. It was all sickeningly familiar.
Mad Dash #3
It had been several months earlier and close to her bedtime as she padded to her room, dragging a big Raggedy Ann. With her imperious lisp she ordered me to fetch her White. This was all routine, but in just moments I realized something was terribly wrong. A reconnoiter around the house confirmed the worst. White had gone… AWOL.
But where? A quick search outside produced only a damp, blue Cookie Monster but no White.
We reviewed the day and then it hit us – Pre-School! Somewhere deep in the bowels of Golden Books, dolls and trucks, lay her precious lovey. Left behind and distractedly forgotten.
Her nighttime story had just begun so I still had a small window before blankie’s absence would be noticed, followed by a baby storm surge. With no time to change into a black turtleneck or the rest of my cat burglar outfit, I raced to her pre-school. In just moments I was scaling the fence.
As I hauled myself up I took stock. Here I was, an almost middle-aged man scaling a fence in the dark. Attempting to break into my daughter’s pre-school to try and locate her lovey.
If I got caught what would I say? Who would believe me? On the other hand, what else could there be of value in a pre-school – a rare issue Cabbage Patch Doll?
Leaping from the fence I landed at the front door and pulled out my Dad flashlight. Now I really looked like a thief… or at least a cartoon thief. I had heard there was a key hidden somewhere above the door and quickly located it. Clearly, others had come this way before me. More than likely around bedtime.
Inside, it was like a nighttime scene from “Toy Story” – dozens of unblinking doll eyes followed me in the dark. And like in every movie, I managed to step on a few squeaky toys and a fire engine that almost landed me on my ass.
But I wasn’t deterred. The clock was ticking, and I made an educated guess. I headed toward the cubbies – the only place a preschooler would entrust with their most personal, most precious belongings. For what is a cubby after all, but a child’s first safe deposit box?
I found her cubby and sure enough, peaking back at me in the dark was a shiny corner of her White. Just lying there, waiting to be discovered… like it had all the time in the world.
I snatched the errant blankie and took off, flying over the fence, buoyed by my triumph. We would all sleep well this night. I silently thanked the lovey gods.
Mad Dash #2 (Part 2)
Which was who I was praying to now, perched on a chair, scanning the empty rows, here at Miami International Airport. But these gods weren’t responding to my newest entreaty. Were they getting bored with this routine?
Who could blame them? How could I let something so valuable out of my sight? This wasn’t just another of my local misadventures. We were now facing an impending interstate and transcontinental crisis.
I hopped back to the floor and began jogging up and down the rows of chairs. Could someone have actually snatched it away? But why, why?
Over the P.A. a voice announced the last call for our flight. This was it. I had but seconds to find this lovey or else send my family back to California without me and blankie. Better for the two of us to go missing.
I gave the terminal a few more frantic looks as the lady at the gate waved me back. Defeated, I shuffled toward her, willing for the impossible to occur. She gave me a consoling shrug.
And then I heard a child cry out. Swinging around I spotted a toddler across the expanse, running towards its parents holding White in its little grubby hands.
Now I cried out and sprang toward them shouting, “Hey, that’s my lovey!”.
The dad looked at me, startled. But he saw my panic and then in an instant he understood. He gently took White from his child’s hand and wheeled around, heading towards me. One dad with a lovey to another.
It was like a movie, all playing out in slow motion – the two Dads running toward each other – arms outstretched, eyes wide, the lovey slowing waving in the air. And then like a Michelangelo painting – our hands almost touching, the lovey drifted from him, through the air and onto my fingertips.
Our eyes met, we smiled and nodded to each other as only the parents of a toddler could understand.
I’m sure my look of gratitude said it all as I spun around, now racing to the gate.
All is saved.
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