Category Archives: Travel

Absolutely.

It was a tradition we had started a few years back. Whenever someone in our family had a birthday coming up, they got to choose whether they wanted gifts or an adventure. Since I had just reached Level 38 in the game of life, I felt an adventure was in order. I have stuff. A ridiculous amount. I wanted memories. 

We didn’t go far. Adventures don’t always require distance. My husband and I Googled our little hearts out and found an idyllic seaside town not even an hour away. It had all the requirements.

1. A beach. 

2. A place close to the beach that sold alcohol.  

Better yet, we found a quirky little inn that still had rooms available. An inn that was the perfect blend of charming and yet definitely haunted, but haunted by the ghost of Lorelai Gilmore. I immediately fell in love. 

It was everything a small getaway should be. Even the constant sibling fighting added an air of authentic vacation whimsy. 

“Ah, we’re going to miss this when they get older.” I sighed to my husband as we sat on the beach and watched our daughter throw sand directly into her brother’s eyes.

“Yes, these moments when they’re still small enough to lack the strength to actually murder each other are truly magical,” replied my husband as we then watched our son retaliate by hitting his sister over the head with some driftwood. 

Alas, all good things must come to an end. As we were packing up to leave the following morning on our second night there, the whining started. Right on time. 

“But MOM! We don’t WANT to go HOME.” my 5-year-old wailed, splayed dramatically on the bed. 

“MOMMA! Can we live here now?” my almost 3-year-old helpfully chimed in as she mimicked her brother’s splaying.

“Guys, you know we have to leave tomorrow.”

Simultaneous groans. The only thing they had agreed on the entire time. 

“Can we stay just one more night?” 

“Yeah, can we?”

Pffft. Who did these kids think they were dealing with? Not in the mood to argue about this for the next 45 minutes, I decided to throw the hammer down, saying the two words universally known to decimate the hopes of youths everywhere. The verbal nuclear option, if you will. 

“Absolutely not.” 

And that was that. 

Until it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that at all. Because out of nowhere, my husband whipped out a homemade missile defense system built out of only three words.

“Are you sure?”

Was I sure? WAS I SURE? Who did this guy think he’d knocked up on multiple occasions? Of course I was sure. We couldn’t possibly stay one more night. We had to get home and…do things. Like…important things. Important things like…THE DOG. Yeah. We have a dog and there is no way…

“I mean, we could see if the dog sitter can stay one more night.”

But…

“And the owner mentioned to me earlier that he doesn’t have the room booked again until next week.”

But…

“And I know what you’re thinking, but we can afford it. I worked all that overtime last month.”

But…

“What do you think?”

What did I think? What did I THINK? I think the mom part of me was holding up a giant banner over my brain that said “ABSOLUTELY NOT.” As she so often did. Because the mom part of me is inundated with 300 ridiculous requests a day. Can I jump off the roof? What if I wear a cape? Can we have candy for breakfast? Can we put makeup on the dog? Can we lick this old gum on the sidewalk?

So, “absolutely not” was the only possible answer to all of these. It was a survival technique really. But, because of this, how many times did I say no to things just out of sheer habit?

And that’s when I heard her. The non-mom part of me. The part of me that was slowly being smothered underneath the pile of unfolded laundry in my soul. She was straining to be heard as she whispered “what if you said yes?”

Meanwhile, while my brain was short-circuiting, the three of them were standing there, staring at me expectantly.  

“Well, I guess there’s no harm in seeing if the dog sitter can stay one more night,” I finally sputtered out. 

She could. 

“But I doubt the owner will just let us stay another night at the last minute.”

He did. 

Again, six eyes stared expectantly at me. 

“So can we, mom?”

“Yeah, can we?”

Can we? What would one more day mean? One more trip to the beach. One more dinner at a place where the wine paired perfectly with deep fried everything. One more day to make memories I will probably forget but Instagram will remember forever. 

“Honey?”

I stared back at them. I smiled. And I decided then and there to drop my bad habit like a bad habit. 

“Absolutely.”

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Who deserves a vacation?

Of all the titles I thought I’d have throughout my life, Illicit Vacationer was never one of them. And yet, here I am, with my Instagram feed defiantly full of photos of me and my family cavorting on a beach in Maine.

In my defense, I didn’t read Michelle Singletary’s piece in the Washington Post titled “If you’re in debt, you don’t deserve a summer vacation” until after I got back. So, you can imagine my surprise that I somehow managed to get away with sneaking off to the shore without my student loans grabbing me by the ear and hauling me back home while they lectured to me about financial irresponsibility.

If you haven’t read the article, it’s all right there in the headline. But it’s the “deserve” that got me the most. Interesting word choice, considering that the vast majority of Americans are in debt. Luckily, she clarifies what she means by “debt” with the definitely not condescending sentence “I’m sorry to tell you that you don’t deserve a summer vacation if you’re a hot financial mess.”

Ah. Thanks, Michelle. Hot financial mess. Got it. So…everyone then?

But perhaps my favorite bit was when she goes on to say you don’t deserve a vacation even if you saved up for it. Because we should all be using that money to pay down our debt. Because, honestly, how long is it going to take you to become completely debt-free? What, 30, 40, years? You can vacation in your 80’s.

In HER defense, though, she does graciously offer a solution to us mere commoners, us plebs who frivolously spent our stagnant wages on unaffordable higher education, child care, housing, working vehicles and medical procedures. That solution being, of course, the luxurious and also definitely not condescending concept of the “staycation.” Because everyone knows how relaxing it is to hang out in your filthy house that you hang out in every other day of your life. But, as she so kindly reminds us, don’t spend your valuable time off cleaning and attacking that mile-long to-do list. You’re on vacation, afterall. Act like it. Just step around the piles of laundry and dog vomit.

But enough of Michelle’s Very Helpful Tips for the Working Poor. Let me tell you who I think “deserves” a vacation.

Everyone.

Everyone deserves a vacation. Full stop. Everyone is stressed out. Everyone is busy to the point of exhaustion. Everyone is struggling, in some way or another.

I’m sure even rich people get stressed out from time to time. I don’t know, maybe their third Porsche didn’t start today and now they have to have their butler take it to the mechanic and it’s become like a whole thing. I get it, man. It’s rough.

Which is why we all deserve a break.

Do you know what’s so amazing about vacations? It’s somewhere away. Away from home. Away from your problems. Away from the world’s problems. Just for a bit. Just long enough to breathe and take in a lungful of life.

Because by being away, you get perspective. Say, perspective about how you were not put on this Earth merely to work hard and pay your bills.

And you don’t need a big fancy vacation for this perspective. All travel changes you for the better. We only went an hour and half away. In the off-season. For only five days. Because that’s what we could afford. Most of the time it was 55 degrees and rainy.

But it was heaven. Because it was away. Because it was the four of us, laughing and exploring and eating absolutely nothing of nutritional value and remembering that in the grand scheme of things, all the rest of it is just the small stuff. Life is big and should be treated as such.

Because do you know who deserves a vacation the most, in my opinion? My children. They deserve to run around on beach when they’re young enough to scream in delight and slight terror every time a wave touches their foot. They deserve carefree days full of sandy kisses and sticky hugs that leave their lollipops hopelessly tangled in their mother’s hair. They deserve the pure joy that can only come from hopping in the car and setting off for destinations unknown with happy parents.

Debt will always be there. Even if I finally do pay off all my current debt, my car is 14-years-old. We’ll need a new one soon. At some point, someone will break a leg, or get really sick, or need surgery. Eventually, we’d like to own a house instead of renting. Someday my kids will likely go to college. There will always be more debt.

But you know what there won’t always be more of? Time. This time, right now. Where my kids are young and my husband and I are less young but still young enough to chase them through the streets of a charming seaside town with delight.

I can guarantee you that when all of us are on our deathbeds, we won’t be thinking “man, I’m so happy I got all that debt paid off, what a life well-lived.” We’ll be thinking instead about how we sat and watched the waves on a freezing beach that one day in May. And then we came back to our little oceanfront cottage and made s’mores by the fire, with a peace settling upon us that was interrupted only by spontaneous hugs that left fragments of sticky marshmallow hopelessly tangled in my hair.

So, take that vacation, my friends.

You can’t afford not to.

 

The weird things that excite you as a mom

I stood there in front of the refrigerator, the cool air wafting past my body like a million tiny kisses from the grocery store angel. I stood there and just stared. For how long, I have no idea. My brain was too busy taking inventory to notice something as trivial as time. Somewhere, way in the back of said brain, I realized I was doing the exact same thing I yell at my kids for doing. But I didn’t care. Rules are made (by me) to be broken (by me).

Besides, I was downright giddy by this point. There are weird things that excite you once you become a mom. That brief 45 seconds where all the laundry is done. Educational toys that promise to make your kid a STEM superstar. Drinking wine based on your favorite TV shows while watching those TV shows.

All great things, truly. But for me, there is nothing that can top the weird excitement I feel in the days leading up to a vacation when I am confronted with the task of getting all the perishable food in my kitchen consumed before we leave. And as I stood there in front of the fridge, I couldn’t help but notice how full it was. Only four days left to go and there were ingredients and leftovers enough for at least a good week. I should have been embarrassed by how exhilarated I was about this. How electrified I was by the challenge.

But I wasn’t.

This was my culinary Olympics.

There are rules, of course. You can’t just throw the food away, for one. You’re a mom, after all. It must be consumed. Or, as in my case since I have small children, prepared and placed in front of my family where it is ignored and stubbornly not consumed. And THEN, after an acceptable amount of ignoring time, it can be thrown out. The goal is always to let as little food as possible go to waste.  

As you can imagine, this leads to some rather creative meals in the days leading up to vacation.

“Mom, what is this?”

“Chicken nugget spaghetti”

“And this?”

“Scrambled eggs mixed with overripe avocado.”

“And for dessert?”

“Mashed potato pie.”

“It looks like it’s just leftover mashed potatoes.”

“It is.”

Another rule is that you will not be going to the store. For anything. You can’t subtract by adding. Which means that some things will have to be rationed.

“Momma, can I have some milk?”

“Everyone gets a thimbleful of milk every three hours.”

“But Momma…”

“I measured it perfectly! There will be no deviating from the plan. There’s water if you’re thirsty.”

“Well, can I at least have a snack?”

“Of course. Here, eat this about-to-be-expired sour cream.”

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Some people, and by some people I mean my husband, think I take this all a bit far. But he’s wrong. Which is why we end up having conversations like this:

“Ryan, did you just heat something up from the freezer?”

“Yeah. I was really craving a…”

*knocking microwave burrito out of his hand* “Do you think this is a game? Was I not clear before? Do you need to see the PowerPoint slides again?”

“Oh God, please no.”

“NO CANNED OR FROZEN FOOD FROM HERE ON OUT.”

“Honey, don’t you think you’re taking this all a bit too serio…”

“THAT FRIDGE WILL BE EMPTY.”

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And lastly, if anything is left, guess what everyone is eating in the car on the way to our destination? I don’t care that it’s a bag of wilted salad and slightly wrinkled grapes and questionably smelling hummus from the far, far back right corner. Eat it. Momma is on a mission and I will not let ANYONE’S fickle eating habits ruin it.

You can eat whatever you want on vacation. You can waste whatever food you want on vacation. There are no rules on vacation. Let complete chaos REIGN on vacation.

But before vacation, I am running this joint like a gastronomic gulag. And you will eat those stale marshmallows and leftover lasagna for breakfast. And you’ll like it.

And all because, and I say this in my most haughty evil dictator voice, it amuses me.

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A (rented) room of one’s own

They looked bigger in the pictures online. The rooms. My compliments to the photographer.

The pictures also managed to somehow downplay the whole floral aspect of the room. Which is quite the accomplishment as well. Did you ever sleep over at your grandma’s house in the 1980’s? It looked just like that. Complete with the four-poster bed and the beige, eternally out-of-date, carpet. And, of course, the floral wallpaper. The floral curtains. The chair in the corner covered in clashing floral upholstery.

I didn’t even know flowers had it in them to be so aggressive.  

But this room, it’s mine. For two nights at least.

My husband kicked me out of the house. The beautiful bastard. He had silently watched for months as the daily grind wore away at me, chipping relentlessly at those parts of me that were buried underneath the gargantuan title of MOM.

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He watched and watched and then said enough. Take three days. Go somewhere. Just you.

There were a thousand reasons not to go. Seven hundred of them, at least, being things that had to be done IMMEDIATELY. He let me spout off a mere handful of these reasons before interrupting me with perhaps the two most beautiful sentences ever uttered in the English language: “I don’t care. You’re going.”

As I type this I have a Harry Potter marathon on the supernaturally tiny TV they provided. I’m reclining on a ridiculously comfortable bed (with floral bedsheets) surrounded by books and graphic novels and back issues of magazines and newspapers that I wouldn’t be able to finish even if I had three months.

I keep waiting for an interruption. For a knock at the door. For a feral howl of my name to reach my ears. For…anything.

It never comes.

I’m so happy.

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Remember your room from childhood? From when you were a teenager? How it was your sanctuary? The place you could dream in, wonder and plan who you would become. It was perhaps the only place where all the possibilities and all your potential was allowed out in the open.

It has been a very long time since I had that feeling.

“What are you going to do?” my friends asked me when they heard I was temporarily running away from home.

Nothing.

Nothing?

Nothing.

Or perhaps everything.

I don’t know and it’s delicious.

In the end, I do things. And then I don’t do things. And then I think about doing more things but just lay in my beautiful but possibly haunted rented Victorian bed for a bit longer because sometimes just thinking about doing things is better than actually doing them. I keep checking the time. An old habit from my old life, with kids. It’s going slow, the minutes and hours crawling forward, in no hurry to get anywhere. I briefly debate stealing this precious clock.

And then, perhaps the most magical thing of all happens. I start to miss them. My family.

It has been a very long time since I’ve had that feeling.

It’s lovely.

And, I now realize, vital.

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I don’t know how I can ever repay my husband for this gift, for these three days he gave me to remember who I was, who I still am, underneath all the MOM. And to remember all the reasons I decided to take that title in the first place.

But should he ever feel the need to run away from home, I know a place.

 

The Road Trip, Part Two: Even Trippier

 

Previously, on the “Chick Writes Stuff” blog…

Parent 1: “Hey, let’s take a road trip in our tiny car with two small children and an aging dog!”

Parent 2: “Brilliant!”

Thirty seconds after leaving the driveway…

Parent 1: “This is awful.”

Parent 2: “This is the worst idea we’ve ever had.”

One hour later…

Parent 1: “JUST THROW MORE DORITOS AT THEM!”

Parent 2: “IT’S NOT WORKING! THEY’RE DODGING THEM! OH GOD, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”

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(Read Part One here)

One week later…

Hello, everyone. How are you? Good. Good. Glad to hear it. …Oh, me? I’m…fine. Everything’s fine. Just sitting here calmly at my computer, typing industriously away. Because everything is fine…now.

Plus the doctors say the constant twitching of my left eye should taper off any day now so there’s that.

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Of course, in hindsight, it wasn’t like our trip was ALL bad. There was a swimming pool at our hotel. That was fun. And I was smart enough to bring wine with us. That was REALLY fun. Yup. Really, really fun all the way until…bedtime.

Have you ever been unfortunate enough to sleep in the same bed as your child? What am I saying? Of course you have. You’re a parent. Which means that you already know that when children are small (and sometimes even the not-so-small ones), there is nothing they love more than sleeping with one foot up a parent’s nose and the other shoved in-between some parental ribs. They are also big fans of the game Musical Bed Positions. Because if they don’t move every three minutes while sleeping they die. At least that’s what I’m assuming based on the evidence.

And then there is the 2 a.m. stage whisper of “Momma! Is it morning yet?” Which wakes up their sibling, who also stage whispers “It’s morning! Can we get up? I need juice! And a cookie!” Which makes the other one go “I WANT A COOKIE TOO!” Which results in a dual meltdown after they are both informed by a gruff parent voice that NO ONE is getting a cookie and everyone needs to go back to sleep.

But it’s all worth it when you are forced awake again at 5 a.m. by your child’s creepy ghost face breathing heavily a mere half-inch from your face and then have to immediately deal with the fact they don’t understand live TV.

“Momma! Turn on the TV!”

(sleepily) mm-kay.”

“What is this?”

“A commercial.”

“Can you fast forward it?”

“No.”

“Can we watch a different episode?”

“No.”

“Can we watch a different show?”

“Only if you want to flip through 40 channels three times to find something else with no guarantee of finding something better.”

“Well, this isn’t fun.”

“You never would have survived the ‘80’s, kid.”

I really shouldn’t complain, though. The end result of all this was that we got to spend a wonderful week with my family in Ohio. Doing exotic things like napping while someone else kept our kids alive and eating homemade food someone else made and thoroughly enjoying those little moments where someone else yelled at our kids.

It was like a Norman Rockwell painting. But with more screaming and hitting.

Except I am going to complain. Because when it was all over…we had to come back.

I was determined though, DETERMINED, to make the best of it this time. Even with the awful snowstorm we drove through for three hours. And the windshield wipers that started malfunctioning. And the unsalted road before us that became a super fun slippery asphalt coil of death!

Hahahahaha! Road trips, man! Such a great American tradition! Right!? RIGHT!? They’re just the best! Hahahahaha!

The good news is that after what seemed like two hours past eternity, we finally arrived to our beloved home, with all our hearts and bladders full to bursting.

Only to find out that we did not currently have a toilet in said beloved home because the bathroom remodel the landlord scheduled while we were gone wasn’t finished yet.

But that, my dear friends, is a story I’m saving for my lawyer when I inevitably snap and start running naked through the streets laughing maniacally.

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How to survive a road trip with your family (Part One)

Spoiler alert: You don’t.

Sure, you’re still alive. Technically. But you come back changed. Different. Hardened. You are not the same person who optimistically climbed into that tiny Hyundai Accent with your husband and two kids and elderly dog, all bright-eyed with dreams of adventure and bonding and Instagram-worthy shots of the highway.

You are now a survivor. You have been to hell and back. And let me tell you, Dante had it easy. He never had to help a toddler with diarrhea in a dirty rest stop bathroom. I can still hear the screams. “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING…NO. STOP. WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? DID YOU JUST STICK YOUR HAND IN THE TOILET? NOOOOOOOO…”

And the torture isn’t just limited to the road. In fact, it begins long before the traditional road trip opening ceremony of stomping from room to room looking for the lost car keys. (Because why would the car keys be where you left them? That would be silly. Then you would actually leave on time.).

No, see, for every road trip there is a person who is designated as the Carrier of the Mental Load for the group. This is the unfortunate soul who is responsible for remembering everything that everyone could possibly need for every single possible eventuality. Clothes for every weather scenario. Favorite toys and blankets. Second favorite toys and blankets in case the first ones get lost. Swimsuits for the hotel pool. Sippy cups. Extra wipes. Extra diapers. Tissues. The night-night book. Dramamine because last time the back seat looked like a scene from “The Exorcist.” Two coats, per person, because it is likely to be 70 degrees one day and a blizzard the next. AND DON’T FORGET THE CHARGERS. ALL THE CHARGERS. DID YOU PACK YOUR CHARGER? WELL, CHECK AGAIN. WE ARE NOT BUYING ONE FROM A GAS STATION. YOU HEAR ME?

Even the dog gets his own bag. Dog food. Dog treats. Rawhide bones. A bottle of water and an empty bowl. His favorite toy, Lobstah Killah. His second favorite toy, Mr. Disemboweled Stuffed Squirrel. His arthritis medication that you can never get him to take but bring with you so that you can more confidently lie to the vet at his next visit.

Do NOT mistake this as a position of honor. It is not. It is the quickest way to destroy your brain without the help of illegal drugs.

But take heart. If this position falls to you, just know that someone else (hint: your significant other) will be designated as the Master of Luggage Tetris. This is the person who has to take the various shapes and lumps that all your Very Vital Vacation items have been stuffed into and fit them into a tiny car trunk. This is also not a position of honor, which is why cursing is allowed.

(Please note that the same person can’t do both jobs without permanent brain damage. Don’t be a hero and take it all on yourself.).

Once you are finally in the car, the typical rules that regulate our lives no longer apply. For example, you can never have enough snacks. Let me repeat that. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH SNACKS. Buy ALL the snacks. It doesn’t matter if they don’t all get eaten. They won’t. You will waste so much money on these snacks that never get eaten. Hundreds of dollars. Thousands, possibly. But it doesn’t matter. You would pay double, TRIPLE, that amount for any object that can stop multiple children who all decide to have meltdowns at the exact same moment. They will eat three Doritos out of that family-sized bag and then dump the rest on the floor and you will still spend the rest of your life thanking the God of Doritos for his divine intervention. You will get to a point where you are hurling SnoBalls like grenades into the backseat just for one moment of peace. You’ll let them snort straight sugar through a straw on the back of their Dr. Seuss book. And at every stop you will buy more snacks. Because snacks are the dam holding back the raging river of your kids’ “BIG FEELINGS” that you do not want unleashed in that tiny tin can you call a vehicle.

Naturally, as a result of this, your car will eventually become one of the scarier episodes of “Hoarders.” Half empty coffee cups as far as the eye can see. Happy Meal cartons that are breeding like rabbits under the seats. Chips and half eaten snack cakes littering the floor ankle-deep. Let it go. Do not worry about it. If it gets too bad, just ditch the car in a river a few miles from your destination and call an Uber to take you the rest of the way.

Of course, snacks does not mean liquids. Do not, under any circumstance, give liquids to anyone in that car. If you do, no one will be on the same pee schedule.

Actually, scratch that. Even if you purposely dehydrate everyone, giving out one capful of bottled water every four hours like you are stranded on a desert island, you will still have to stop every 14 minutes. Yup, that’s right. They can’t even make it 15 minutes. The good news is that this gives you plenty of opportunity to buy an overpriced charger on your way out (that, it will turn out, doesn’t work with your phone).

Luckily, all of this will be forgotten when you reach your first destination, the hotel right off the Interstate. Because that’s when the real nightmare begins.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

The Adventures of Kitty “Meow” Cat, III

Hello. You probably don’t know me. In fact, there is no reason you should. My existence is of little importance to most people. Most people, that is, save one.

And it is for her sake that I would like to share the following story with you.  

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. My name is Kitty Cat. A wholly unoriginal name, I’ll grant you, but considering I was given my moniker by a young creature who still occasionally sticks a spoon in her eye, the name serves its purpose. I am, indeed, a small stuffed kitty cat toy.

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I remember little of my life before the Christmas of 2017. The first clear memory I have is of being imprisoned in a small cardboard box in some kind of gargantuan toy prison, my feet and neck bound by indestructible chains of plastic. The entire lot of us were slowly being driven mad by an endless loop of what our prison guards called “sounds of the season.” And from morning until night, we were subjected to humiliating pokes and prods by chaotic mobs of angry giants and their leaky offspring.

You can imagine my relief then when one of these giants took pity on me and orchestrated my escape in a daring plan whereby she distracted the prison guards using only a piece of green paper and calmly walked out the door.

Soon thereafter, however, I realized my freedom came at a cost, for I was quickly put into the possession of her own personal leaky offspring.

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Life hasn’t always been easy for me. I suppose it never is when you are the beloved toy of a 2-year-old. But I tolerated things like the high-pitched, screechy voice she uses for me (even though clearly I sound much more like an off-brand Patrick Stewart) because there is not much in the way of an alternative for me.

A realization I would soon come to know intimately.

It was a summer day like any other. I awoke in the vise-like grip of my small human. We played Kitty Cat vs. Batman. We illegally removed her fresh diaper (although I was a very reluctant accomplice). She mashed my face into her bowl of Cheerios while repeatedly proclaiming “Kitty Cat eat. Num Num Num.”

Then it was off to the library, her strapped into the stroller, me securely by her side with half my head accidentally tucked under her rear. Like most of our asinine activities, it all went by in a blur of giggles (hers) and shouts of “dammit, Mae, I said NO!” (her mother’s). It wasn’t until our walk home that my entire world, small as it was, was shattered.

I wasn’t sure what was happening at first. Then, all of a sudden, I knew too well. I was slipping, slipping. I tried to cry out, to cling to her, my little sticky biped, but with horror remembered I am utterly inanimate. Yes, dear readers, “Toy Story” is a falsehood of the most egregious kind.

I was tumbling, down, down. By the time I could finally orient myself, the stroller was disappearing over the horizon.  

And so I laid there. Under that overpass. Cars careening past. Pedestrians trudging by on their weary way. No one even bothering to look my way except for the useless neighborhood birds and squirrels with their tedious chittering.

I had never felt so alone.

All was lost. I knew it in my non-existent heart. I prayed for death but it wouldn’t come. Oh, what I would have given to be back in those chubby arms with their faint whiff of ketchupy peanut butter. That little girl loved me so much and what did I give her in return?

Nothing.

Nothing but a silent, stitched-on, smirk. Had I neck muscles, I would have hung my head in shame.

But wait, what was that? In the distance? A glimmer of flannel? Could it be? No. No, it couldn’t possibly be.

Yet, hope of all hopes, it was. It truly was my girl’s father.

“There are no lost toys on my watch,” I heard the man say in a very macho voice as he tucked me into his very manly computer purse.

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Later I was to overhear that the mother had told the flannel daddy man about how I was lost and so he had walked the same route we took on his way home from work. But it was all just background noise to me. For I was safely back in my love’s arms, being squeezed until I thought my stuffing would fall out my eyeballs. The smell of old macaroni and cheese has never smelled so sweet.  

So, where do we go from here? For I have seen things. Things no small toy should see. I have aged much beyond my calendar age of eight months and have seen firsthand just how frightening of a place the world can be.

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But I have also found my place in it, this scary world. It is by her side. For if the world is scary to me, imagine what it must be like for her. It is the least I can do, for there is no love quite like the love of a tiny child for her ratty old stuffed animal, and, from now on, I shall do my utter best to return that love ten-fold and be her courage when the world grows just a bit too big. 

And I shall do it even when she relentlessly kisses me while eating pancakes with an obscene amount of syrup.