Friday, January 15, 2010
At birth, I believe that we were all born with an innate desire and willingness to attach ourselves to an inanimate object. For some friends it was "blankey" for others, their pacifier. For me, it was "Lifeguard."
On my fifth birthday party, my big sister Katie's boyfriend brought me a gift. I opened it and inside was a white, fluffy stuffed animal. A seal. This began my obsession with sea animals, which was further encouraged by "Free Willy" and the Lisa Frank school supplies (see penguin pic above).
It was love at first sight. The naming of my new best friend was quick, and i thought, ingenious. "Lifeguard." Not like the kind that wears red swim trunks and sits in the stand. That kind of lifeguard didn't even cross my mind. In my brilliant five year old mind, I knew that he was going to literally guard my life.
I took Lifeguard with me everywhere. I would draw pictures of him, and dress him in doll's clothing. He could be my pillow, my playmate, and occasionally my dog's chew toy (which did NOT make me happy). Eventually his stark white fur turned a dull cream, and his stitching came undone and left him nose-less.
One morning when I was ten or so, I woke up and Lifeguard was gone. My family and I searched everywhere. He was nowhere. I still don't know what happened to him. I had gotten really sick in the middle of the night a few days before and think that perhaps he was thrown away with the throngs of dirty sheets and towels. Maybe Emma grabbed him and dug a resting place for him in the backyard. He was never found.
This past Wednesday I was eating dinner with my nephew and mom at our church. Surrounded by my good friends and loved ones, we chatted about jobs, the delicious chocolate cake, and things going on in the church. I happily scanned the room and my gaze stopped when I saw a plastic carrying case in a corner near my table. It was one of those cases that kids keep their stuffed animals in. Probably to keep them from getting dirty or lost. This one in particular had big openings in the top, with the ability to look down in to the cage. Something white and soft was sticking out of the open slits.
After realizing who the case belonged to, I asked the child's mother, "Leslie...what's inside of Johnny's carrying crate?" She responded, "Oh, it's just some of Johnny's stuffed animals." "Right, but I'm reffering to the white one in particular." She looked down at her beautiful 3-year old and said, "Johnny, why don't you show Maddie 'Christmas Seal'?"
He looked up at me with unsure eyes. Why the heck would this 24-year-old woman want to see my seal? And why are her eyes filled with tears? And why is she looking at "Christmas" like a hungry wolf? He slowly opened the case, and pulled out his new toy. He carefully handed it over to me and the floodgates opened. It was Lifeguard. Not my lifeguard of course, but the exact replica of what he looked like, felt like. There I stood, nearly 15 years after losing my childhood friend, crying my eyes out.
Johnny continued staring at me as if I was the weirdest "adult" he'd ever met. I reluctantly handed "Christmas/Lifeguard" back to him and tried to explain to his mom and dad why I was crying over their child's toy.
The past couple of days I've been wondering what made me react the way that I did. Sure, it's just a silly toy. But after thinking about it, the loss of Lifeguard was so much more than losing a stuffed seal. Lifeguard represented my childhood. Soon after I lost him, I had to grow up and throw away my childish fantasies after my dad left home. I think I often times desire to revert back to the ignorance and innocence I felt when I was with Lifeguard. He literally "guarded my life" from the realities that my dad could leave my family. That the loving "daddy" that I saw in movies and yearned for, wasn't going to exist in my life.
Feelings of sadness and loneliness aside, the loss of Lifeguard has taught me to hope. Hope that I will be the mother of a family that loves her children to the ends of the earth. Hope that my "Jim" will be the kind of father to my children that I never had. Hope that the Lord will continue to sustain me and show me my worth despite the shortcomings of my earthly father. Hope.
Allie Moss - Corner...Take a Listen