We had a minor crisis in the Leen household this morning. Emily, Sam's well-loved duck friend, went missing. She wasn't in her usual hiding places - the side of the bed, the car, the couch - leading me to privately worry that we'd left her in a restaurant or somewhere else outside the house, possibly lost forever. I didn't share the entirety of my fears with Sam, but he was understandably distraught and went off to school this afternoon on the promise that I'd keep looking.
Emily joined our family when Sam had just turned 3. We were visiting my mom down in Portland over the summer when she was incredibly ill, and we were all staying in a hotel room close to the house so we wouldn't disturb her. It was becoming apparent that we were headed toward the end. I was stressed and Sam was likely feeling it, too.
One night, we went out for pizza at Papa's Pizza, a sort of local version of Chuck E. Cheese, complete with that grabber machine where you pop in some coins and operate the claw in the hopes of snagging a prize. Bless their hearts, they'd rigged the machine so that it was almost guaranteed that each kid would get a prize (can I hear a hip-hip-hooray for local businesses?). Sam came running out of the restaurant at the end of the night with Mark, having captured himself (with some daddy help I'm sure) a prize duck. When I asked what he wanted to name her, he chose to name her after our family friend, Emily, a little girl who was 5 at the time and with whom Sam had been spending a lot of time playing on our trips. I noted at the time that this was the first time that a stuffed animal had not been given the descriptive name "Lion" or "Cow." This duck clearly had personality.
And she had quite the style sense, too. At Sam's insistence, her hair tuft on the top of her head always had to be done just so, coming to a perfect point with the help of some Sam spit. As one can see from the picture, all this styling has taken its toll on the body and volume of her hair.
We also discovered over the next few years that Emily had a, er, unique voice. She spoke in whistle tone of the likes only very young vocal cords are capable of. One step down from dog whistle range. And she usually has a lot to say, especially at bed time.
When Sam asked for Emily last night after discovering she wasn't in his bed, we put him off a bit, not wanting to put in the work to look, and he eventually fell asleep as he sometimes does without her. When it became apparent this morning that she was missing, a low-grade panic took hold. I called Mark, and together we brainstormed where she could be. Did we leave her at Ivar's when we had dinner there on Sunday? Mark called...no Emily. Did she somehow travel somewhere in the car and fall out? I was heartsick at the thought of Emily sitting somewhere in a puddle. Finally on a hunch, I unpacked the Halloween bags we took to the Halloween party at the community center yesterday, and found Caroline's purse , zipped up and containing something soft and squishy. Unzipping it, I may have actually let out a sigh of relief. There was Emily, folded in half and packed into the pink Hello Kitty purse. Caroline, who is also starting to be won over by Emily's unique place in the family, had packed her in there for an adventure.
Holding her, I dialed the school (yes ,really). I asked the teacher who answered to please tell Sam that we found Emily and she's at home. I hung up, thinking that the teacher probably thinks I'm a little crazy, or hovery, or over-involved. But I know Sam, and I know he's been thinking about her on and off all afternoon. And I didn't want him to worry about her any longer than he had to. So if I take a little flack from a teacher about calling, so be it.
And now, I'm going to take a very well-loved duck to meet her Sam at school, and all will be right with the world. Special childhood friends make it so.