Once when I was seven my goldfish jumped out of his tank and committed suicide. He actually thought to himself, “I would rather suffocate on that pink shag carpet than spend another moment living in the care of this kid.” When I found him I was devastated. There was no note, of course, and so I was left to assume that it was all my fault. Did he not like the seashells I’d brought back from Florida especially for him? Was he dissatisfied with the neon rocks that lined his floor? Was it the food? Could it be that I was feeding him the wrong food? I felt so misunderstood. Did this fish not know how much he was loved? Did he not hear the fish songs that I composed for him? Did he not know that when I stroked the side of his tank I was actually attempting to pet him the only way I could possibly think to pet a fish? He had no idea. It was terrible. So terrible, in fact, that I vowed to never to purchase a fish for my offspring. I did not want any child of mine to suffer the same rejection. I figured stuffed animals were the way to go. I just assumed a synthetic creature would never hurt you the way a real one might. After all, they are not living. Sure, the ones with batteries could maybe run away, but I was going to steer clear of those altogether.
I’d find the most inanimate of all inanimate objects and encourage my daughter to fall in love with it.
That’s how “Corduroy” made his way into our lives. It started with me reading her the book Corduroy- it’s a story all about a girl who saves up her very own money to buy her very own bear who becomes her very best friend. My daughter and I read it over and over again and then one rainy day I presented her a dollar. “This,” I said, practically stealing lines directly from the story, “is your very own money. Let’s go to the thrift store and maybe we can find something special to buy with it.”
She lit up with excitement. “Maybe,” she stammered, “I will find my very own bear.”
Together we rushed to the stroller and trotted off to the store. It was magic. And it only got better…
When we arrived it was as if the universe had conspired to make this moment happen. Right there on the shelf was the very prefect bear- he was scruffy and lanky- he could sit up on his own! He had this look in his eyes like he had lived a thousand lives and was just full of stories to tell. My daughter was in love. She took him into her arms and said, “This is it mommy. This is Corduroy. He will be my very own bear.”
And just like that Corduroy joined our family- he ate meals with us, he slept in my daughter’s bed, he joined us on road trips and accompanied Sage to all traumatic events like haircuts and trips to the doctor. He was great- better than a pet- way better than some old fish. He was dependable.
But then…something shifted. Corduroy started trying to ditch us.
It started on a trip to the park- he actually had the nerve to jump out of the stroller and attempt to take up residence under a tree on the side of the road. Then he hid under a stack of books at the library and spent several hours living the high life with the local children’s librarian. One time he even spent the night at a toy store- was he hoping to get re-purchased by some other cooler family? He’s really unbelievable, we’ve had to retrieve him from buses and grocery stores and restaurant lavatories (god only knows what he was doing in there…something illegal I’m sure. I’ve lived in New York. I know what happens in bathrooms). No matter where we go, no matter how much fun we are having, he tries to abandon us.
I cover for him of course. I don’t want my daughter to know what a drifter he is. When she discovers he’s missing I tell her, “Oh he’s just on a little vacation, he’ll be back as soon as he enjoys some down time.” or “Corduroy… I think he’s at school. Did I not tell you he recently enrolled in community college…he’s probably in class.” I just do whatever it takes to buy time while my husband races around town trying to find him, searching park benches and alley ways…it’s just so upsetting. Corduroy has no idea how good he’s got it. My daughter is the most loving attentive caregiver you could ever hope for. She is tender and loyal and funny. She dances with him every night. She tucks him into bed and serenades him to sleep. She shares her food with him and rocks him when he is feeling down. He’s the luckiest damn bear in the world.
The next time he tries something funny I’m going to put my foot down. “No Corduroy! Not on my watch! This ends now.” I’m going say my piece, not only for my daughter but for all children, all children who have been taken for granted and ditched and by their stuffed bears, and velveteen rabbits, and plush lovies, and…and…YES! THEIR FISH!!!