When we got home from preschool, I let Mikey in the house first. “Go eat, babe, your sandwich is on the table,” I said, opening the door for him, then going back for little Sam.
Carrying Sam in a second later, I heard a strange moaning noise coming from the kitchen. “What happened?” I called out, speeding my step, thinking Mikey hurt himself.
“I’m just so happy to see them!” he called back. Mikey was standing in the kitchen, clutching Bo and Snow Doggie to his chest as tightly as he possibly could, rubbing his face on their soft, worn fabrics.
I stopped in the doorway, watching him.
My baby. And his babies.
Bo was Mikey’s first transitional object, his first lovey. Right at nine months, he started carrying Bo everywhere, dragging him across the floor as he crawled, plopping him in his lap whenever he sat down.
I don’t know what you call it, I told my mom on the phone. It’s like a little square of blanket attached to a stuffed bear head. Anyone who has had a baby shower knows what I’m talking about—these little blanket-doll things are all the rage in newborn gift-giving. Too small for a real blanket or an actual doll—but buttery soft, robin’s egg-blue, and Mikey’s new best friend.
He needed Bo for sleep, rubbing the soft fabric in his hands for hours. He sucked on Bo’s silky tags until they practically disintegrated, so we bought an overpriced Bo-backup on Ebay. We planned to rotate the imposter in so the Bos could wear out evenly.
We thought we were so clever.
Mikey clutched New Bo for two seconds flat, then threw him on the floor, in confusion and disgust.
Of course you know your own baby anywhere. We gave him back his real friend.
To our surprise, the Christmas Mikey was two, Bo suddenly got a sidekick. Snow Doggie was a little dog made of snow who came to life in a sweet British holiday movie—just as he did for Mikey. Soon the doll’s white fur was greying from the grubby, constant fingers of a little boy’s affection.
Back in the kitchen, today, Mikey is still clutching them while I strap Sam into his high chair. “Can I keep them forever, Mommy?” he asks. “I want to keep them forever!” He rubs them on his cheeks. “I love you so much, Bo! I love you so much, Snow Doggie!”
These little troopers have calmed him in meltdowns. They have travelled to England, Florida, Chicago—kept him warm and safe in strange beds. They have been thrown, tossed, lost, yanked, smeared with peanut butter, finger paint, blood. They have been Oxy Cleaned more times than I can count, whipped through the dryer’s most aggressive setting when they were still damp at bedtime. They have taken care of Mikey.
They have worked their little stuffed tails off to earn their place in our family.
And you know, maybe he will have them forever. I don’t necessarily want to picture him at 13, tall and lanky, still running for his dollies the minute he gets home from school.
But honestly, I almost dread more the time they get left behind—just objects again, not alive like now. The time that inescapable, steady march towards adulthood consumes this bit of childhood’s magic.
“Bo and Snow Doggie love me so much!” Mikey says that night, as I tuck him into bed.
“They do, baby. They love you so much,” I say. This is his most perfect self. Sweet. Adorable. Clutching his babies to his chest as tightly as his skinny arms allow, no thought of a future when he might someday let them go.
And if he still has them when he’s 13, or 25, so be it. Wouldn’t I happily clutch my own two babies this way, forever, soft and warm under the covers, white noise and dark curtains keeping the cold blue world at bay?
I rub Mikey’s thick hair. He tucks his babies into himself, rolls his body protectively over them. Everyone is safe now, and together. Slowly, they all drift off to sleep.