This is Freddie, napping with our kitty, Abraham. Freddie was purchased at a Hallmark store somewhere in the summer of 1998. I was pregnant with our second daughter, and our first daughter wanted to pick something out for the baby. We tested each animal out for huggability, and Freddie won by a landslide. The way his front legs flop over makes him just perfect for holding him with his back to you, with your arm across his tummy, and his front legs dangling over your arm.
Not only do I remember the whole scene at the Hallmark store, but I also remember the moment at the hospital when our big (3-year-old) girl pushed Freddie into the scrunchy newborn face of her brand new baby sister.
Baby Girl immediately preferred Freddie to any other stuffed thing, bringing enormous joy to Big Girl. And no other doll or stuffed thing has ever dethroned him. He’s got the stains and worn nose to prove it.
But we’ve lost him.
Baby Girl, now in third grade, took him to school last week. She was doing an oral report and needed a doggie for a prop. She had one of her lesser stuffed doggies all set to go, and then I stepped in. Brilliant me. “You should take Freddie!”
I have no clue why I said that. I have always told the girls not to take their most special things to places where they might get lost. I’ve been ignored before, which once led to Freddie spending a long, dark fortnight in the lost & found department at Kohl’s department store. But I did say it, and she thought it was a marvelous idea.
That afternoon, when I picked Bethany up from school, I asked if she had Freddie. She gasped and said that she had left him in the classroom where the kids wait to be called for carpool. I told her to make sure she checked lost & found first thing in the morning.
Time went on, I went out of town, and Bethany remembered a couple of times to check lost & found, but Freddie was nowhere. I finally got serious and emailed the teacher and the front office. They have not seen him. There’s no sign of him anywhere.
And then we put it all together. Freddie rode to school, with a couple of other props, in a plastic grocery bag. Bethany sat on the floor in the carpool room and put the bag next to her backpack. Which was next to the trash can. So, the best we can figure, Freddie is floating on a trash barge somewhere, or whatever they do with the trash in Colorado.
As you can imagine, there have been many, many tears as a result. Baby Girl is heartbroken at the loss of her far-and-away most special, beloved item. Big Girl is heartbroken because she has always been thrilled that Freddie is so beloved. And I am heartbroken because of all the little memories associated with Freddie (I cannot count the times that I have gently tucked him back under Baby Girl’s sleeping chin). More than that, I am sick over the series of dumb little things I did or did not do that could have prevented this from happening.
It’s the worst feeling that I know of: regret. I regret suggesting that she take him to school. I regret not turning around in carpool and having her run back in to fetch him. I regret not emailing or calling the school the minute we returned home that day, or at least the next morning. And I regret not thinking of the trash possibility before they hauled away the dumpster that I would have happily plunged into, headfirst, to find Freddie. The same dumpster that was hauled away the day before I thought to ask the question.
There is no remedy for regret. Unless someone has perfected the time machine, I can’t do a thing about all those little missteps. There is no replacement for Freddie. He’s singular. There is, quite simply, no way to get him back. I will never tuck him under that precious sleeping chin again.
I know a lot of other emotions are painful, but no other emotion gives me the sick, woozy feeling that regret does. I found myself, all day yesterday, going back in time in my head and trying to imagine different scenarios, as if imagining them would make them real. Ultimately, I would just stop my brain and close my eyes and pray, “Undo this, Lord. Please undo it.”
Perhaps He will. Perhaps the janitor stuck the bag somewhere, having seen through the semi-transparent plastic, and just hasn’t gotten around to dropping it off in the office.
But perhaps He won’t. We still have the memories associated with Freddie, even if he is forever gone. And I still have that precious little chin to kiss and pinch, whether anybody’s tucked under it or not.