Today in church there were stuffed animals in the pews. They were there as part of a toy drive. When we sat down, Molly took the stuffed bear from the corner and held it in her lap, cuddling it much of the service. Which is a little bit ironic because of all four of the kids, she was the only one who never attached to a favorite stuffed animal.
The boys each had their favorite. Pierce had Duckie, a yellow duck with jelly bean clothes and duck slippers. Spencer had Cuddles, a furry soft raccoon that he got from Jason’s boss when he broke his arm (or more accurately the bigger kid broke his arm for him). And Charlie had Hobbes. Hobbes is a tiger. Just like the one that Calvin the comic has. And Hobbes was Charlie’s faithful companion.
When we were preparing to put our house up for sale, we cleaned out half of our belongings and packed them all into a storage unit to make the house more appealing to potential buyers. Charlie put Hobbes in one of the first boxes that went into storage. He was caught up in the excitement of the purge, and at twelve years of age, was ready to move on from stuffed animals and not depend on Hobbes anymore.
The only problem, he wasn’t ready. He still needed Hobbes, his friend and buddy who was only Charlie’s, who would comfort and cuddle with him, even when the rest of the world—and all those many other kids in his house who would just never leave and let him be the only child he was destined to be—got on his nerves or caused him anxiety.
When I was five, I remember deciding it was high time I give up having a blankie. I tossed it up as high as I possibly could into my closet. It took several tries because it kept falling back down. But I thought if I got it up out of reach, then I’d leave it and be able to wean myself, cold turkey. (I try that with chocolate nowadays. Same method of putting it out of reach or sight, hoping I will leave it alone.) By the end of the day, I’d found a chair and a yardstick and I got my blankie back down. (That’s about how well my chocolate-avoidance strategy works too.) I wasn’t ready to part with that soft, yellow ragged blanket.
After we started to empty the house, and repaint and repair things we’d left for “someday,” and it was looking like we were really going to move, I noticed Charlie being more stressed and emotional. Well, we were moving. So I could chalk it up to stress from that. He chewed his nails more than usual. He was more quiet and sullen. Then finally, with enough of my questions and observation, I realized Hobbes was missing. And with more prodding, I figured out that Hobbes was in the storage unit. When I asked about getting Hobbes back, Charlie’s answers were incomplete and noncommittal. So I decided on my own that we needed to get Hobbes. For all our sakes’, Charlie needed to have Hobbes back.
So I planned a sudden, impromptu visit to our rented space. Even if Charlie wasn’t going to say he needed Hobbes back, I was saying it. Since Hobbes was in one of the first boxes that went into the unit, and we’d been adding loads over the weeks, Hobbes’ box was pretty well buried. But we didn’t give up. And when we finally got to the back wall of the storage unit and found the box marked “Charlie’s bedroom,” we tore that thing open and rescued Hobbes (and Charlie) from his exile. The reunion was sweet. And after that, the move wasn’t nearly so stressful. For any of us, including Hobbes himself, I’m sure.
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