“I don’t play with stuffed animals anymore,” she told me after coming home from school.
I was standing in the kitchen chopping onions for the pepper steak I’d planned for dinner and was only half listening. “Oh, yeah?”
She raced past me and grabbed a garbage bag. “I’m cleaning my room!”
I smiled. My kid isn’t the first to volunteer to clean, but she’s definitely a good kid. I finished up preparing dinner and called everyone to the table. My daughter was outside playing with her friends, so I shouted out the front door for her to come in and wash up. On the way back to the kitchen I saw a completely full garbage bag in the hallway outside of her room. “What in the world?”
We’d cleaned her room the weekend before, so there was no way she had that much that needed throwing out. I pulled open the side of the bag and right on top sat Abby. Abby was the teddy bear I brought with the first time I met my daughter. Orange with a pink and white bow around her neck, Abby had been as much a part of our relationship as a stuffed animal could be.
She went with us the first time we went to dinner as a family. The waitress brought Abby her own high chair and served her a complimentary scoop of ice cream for dessert.
Abby stayed in the hospital with my daughter when she needed surgery after breaking her arm.
When we got married, Abby had her own gown that matched my daughter’s gown.
And now she sat in the top of a black Hefty bag, thrown away like she didn’t matter. I sucked in a breath and turned when I heard the front door shut.
One of the things I quickly learned after becoming a step-parent is to (try to) never act hastily. It’s best to ask as many questions as possibly before ever confronting a problem. Today I had no questions. Even though I was cooking and only half listening, I’d heard what she said, she didn’t need her stuffed animals anymore.
To her, Abby was just another of the many stuffed animals she’d gathered over the years.
Wiping the heels of my hands across my burning eyes, I went to the table and sat quietly as we all ate.
She sat across from me smiling and talking a mile a minute about her day. Someone in her class got a red circle for not turning in their homework.
She got a green for picking up the reading area after they’d finished reading.
Next year she planned on joining the broadcast club…sixth grade.
How did this happen?
She was six when I first met her. So tiny nothing but huge blue eyes and gangly limbs. Now she had her hair in a long, blonde braid and planned to be on her school’s television station.
“You’re going to do great,” I croaked out when she looked at me expectantly with those same huge eyes.
After we cleaned up from dinner, she ran back outside to play with her friends a little longer until it was time to settle down for bed.
That night, reading her bedtime story her room felt like a ghost town. The plushes that had lined her bookcase and stared down from shelves were gone and there was nothing to take their place.
I tucked her in and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “Sweet dreams, bug,” I said, pushing the blankets in tightly around her arms.
She struggled to pop her arms back out, then grinned. This was our thing. I tuck her in, she escapes.
I turned off her lamp and left the door open so the hallway light could come in. She’d never admit it, but she was still just a little bit afraid of the dark. Too big for a night light, but too small for no light at all.
I took a shower and on my way back to my room I peeked in on her one last time. Asleep now, she’d turned on her side and Abby sat tucked under her arm.
Smiling I opened her door to give her a little more light. She might be done with her stuffed animals, but maybe this meant she wasn’t quite done with me.