When it comes to terrible things that happen to children in this hard, hard world, losing a couple of stuffed animals shouldn’t even register on the chart. But it does.
Especially when it happens to your own precious grandchild.
These days, many kids call their stuffed animals “stuffies,” a term we didn’t use way back when my son James loved a fuzzy little teddy bear named Freddy. I don’t remember where Freddy came from, but I do know that James slept with Freddy’s head on the pillow beside his own for a long, long time. Once, when he was about ten years old, I asked James if he planned to take Freddy on his honeymoon when he got married. Without batting an eye or asking what a honeymoon was, he told me that of course he did. Now, James’s daughter Emmie sleeps with Freddy’s head on the pillow beside her own every night.
But back to the sad part of this story. Daughter Meg and eight-year-old granddaughter Josephine flew to Tennessee for a family wedding a couple of weekends ago. Josephine’s beloved stuffies, a fox named Foxy and a puppy named Puppy, came along, too. Josephine got both animals when she was a baby and had never slept a night without them. Not once. Foxy and Puppy travelled with Jo to more than a dozen different states, to Mexico three times and to Tennessee often.
In the chaos of leaving for the Nashville airport early Sunday morning, Puppy and Foxy were left behind at my house. A distraught Meg called and asked that they be sent to Denver as soon as possible. Her sister Leigh offered to mail them from Kentucky first thing Monday morning. Josephine wouldn’t be without her beloved stuffies more than a few nights.
On Thursday, Meg texted me a photo of a mangled manila envelope meticulously addressed to Josephine by her cousin June. Puppy and Foxy were not inside that envelope. Instead, there was a note. “We sincerely regret the damage to your mail during handling by the Postal Service,” it said. “We hope this incident does not inconvenience you…Occasionally this will occur…We hope you understand…Please accept our apologies.”
I called Meg. She was sobbing. Josephine was sobbing. What could I do but sob, too? Through our tears, we talked about how irrational it was to be upset over losing inanimate objects, however adored those objects might be. We talked about children all over this world who, in a split second, would trade beloved stuffed animals for a bowl of rice and a cup of clean drinking water. Children who live in war zones. Children who beg and sleep on the mean streets. Children who don’t know where their parents are.
But that didn’t stop us from being heartbroken over Foxy and Puppy.
Talk turned to who was to blame. First at fault was Josephine, for leaving them behind. Then Meg, for not asking Jo if she’d packed them. Me, for not insisting on taking them myself to Copy, Pack and Ship, where they almost certainly would have been safely transported to Denver. Leigh, who never dreamed the envelope in which she lovingly packed the stuffies would be treated so carelessly. Most of all, we laid the blame where it belongs: on the United States Postal Service.
Leigh went back to the post office and filed a lost property claim, including photos. June sent Josephine a new stuffie, whose name is Lamby. Meg took Jo to a toy store, where she bought a replacement fox. He’s adorable, but we all know he’ll never be the real Foxy. Meanwhile, we hope that if any good at all is to come from this, it’s that cousin Emmie will learn a lesson from this cautionary tale.
When you travel, Emmie, leave Freddy at home with his dear fuzzy head safely resting on your pillow.
(November 18, 2023)