I have no idea when the fascination first began. It was never really an obsession, but rather something that I would allow myself to think of from time to time. My mind would wander to some sort of enchanted place where dogs would be smiling and wearing overalls, lambs would ride little bicycles with bunches of flowers in their handle baskets, and mother cats dressed in Sunday finery would push ivory wicker carriages that held twin kittens tucked beneath sweetly embroidered cotton blankets.
The escalating turns of a little boy sparring match from around the corner bring me back to the present. Later that evening, the dull ache in my hip and the scratch marks on my forearm remind me that my eight year old son will only get bigger and stronger, and that there will come a day when I can no longer hold him to keep us all safe from the tempest of his writhing body. In that moment, earlier in the day, though, we were able to weather the storm at hand.
It takes a bit of might and determination to will the tears back as I think of his smallness in the wake of his overwhelming angst, and how things will have to be different when he grows older. I cannot hold that thought, though, because right now, just as the ducks sit cross legged for a picnic of buttered croissants and strawberries on the clover-massed lawn, all is peaceful and well.
Our young mom coffee shop meet ups evolved over the years, and our beloved Chocolate Moon has long since closed. My family moved away. It seemed in the blink of an eye, my longtime friend Kathy’s toddlers turned to teenagers with their own games and recitals. My older sons, too, were scarcely available when we were able to find time, usually at a bookstore somewhere between our two towns, to catch up over an afternoon latte.
There was always a baby (or maybe two) in tow on my end, and I was always grateful for Kathy’s capable extra hands. I would see the fancy little animals, the ones with pinafores and bunches of flowers, for sale at the bookstore, and I would admire them, out loud, for my friend knew. She always did.
As a young teenager and beyond, I looked forward to my babysitting jobs as one of my peers might look forward to a homecoming dance or a trip to the mall. I spent hours reading to my sweetest charges, Ryan and Daniel. Daniel, the younger boy, would wait for me to turn the page and then point an eager toddler finger at the tiniest animal on the page. Every time, and every page. I don’t remember if I ever told his parents about that. Little Daniel, too, loved small things. I hope he still does.
Our Chicago friends gave us a gift certificate to the bookstore a few years ago. When I had found the perfect family book with some funds to spare, I bought myself one of those fancy little animals that were so much a part of my stolen reveries. It was, after all, 25% off.
In the dark shadows on the hardest days, again I fight the demons along with the tears as I consider that when you live among those with mental illness, and maybe you also may not be far from a ledge of sorts, you need the little things.
A padded yellow envelope arrived from Kathy a few days before Christmas. Inside was one of the tiny animals from the bookstore. A little curly lamb, dressed in a pink sundress and seated proudly on a red train, now holds a place of honor on my kitchen windowsill and will forever be a reminder of the whimsy and delight that truly can be part of every day.
When we hope for something, when we love something, we have to believe, and we have to know, that one day, perhaps not even during this time on earth, that that something will come back to us, and we will know it, and it may even be wearing fancy sparkles.
💕Pink farmhouse table courtesy of my clever and lovely artist friend, Sue, who is fancy and sparkly, every single day.