In recent weeks, Katie has discovered the wonder of stuffed animals. Previously neglected, left to gather dust in the corner of the nursery, ignored and alone, they now form the centerpiece of her play. They ride on top of her toy bus. They sit with her on the steps or in a lap for story time. They accompany her into boxes – sitting in cardboard containers is another new discovery of hers – and up and down the hall, their soft noses ground into the carpet with each move forward as she crawls. Perhaps cutest is when she hugs them, squeezing them to her chest with a grin on her face, moving through them one at a time, in turn.
Her favorite has changed every few days; first, it was a small brown dog, then the spotted one with long ears, then a rabbit. Most recently, however, it’s been a floppy lamb (“Gotta Getta Gund!” reads the tag), and this one seems to be the one. If a friend in need is a friend indeed, this white fuzzball makes the cut, for he has been there when Katie has needed him most: drop-off at BSF, unwanted car rides, bedtime. She adores him.
Which is all well and good, except for one small detail: Lamb (we’ve yet to come up with a good name – suggestions welcome) is white. A snowy, perfect, beautiful white. Or at least, he was white when he was given to us, and he is white for, on average, three seconds after I pull him out of the washing machine. But the love of a small child rapidly turns him gray, and so, most of the time, he looks dingy, abused, beaten up by life. And he is. Beaten up, that is. Love has taken its toll, put him through some tough moments, some difficult situations. He’s like the Velveteen Rabbit, I suppose, though not enough time has yet passed for Lamb to reach that kind of glory.
He could have remained there on high shelf in a corner of the nursery, safe, pristine, unscathed. He could have stayed right where he was and avoided the indignities that are now a routine part of his day. He could have, but then he’d have missed out on the adoration of a small girl, missed out on the hugs and the laughter and the games, missed out, indeed, on the purpose for which he was brought into this world.
He could have stayed white, stayed safe, but what would he have lost in the process?