Charlie, Corduroy, and Heartbreak
During breakfast yesterday, Charlie suddenly looked up from perusing Corduroy (everyone’s favorite tale of a bear and his lost button), chin trembling, eyes welling up, and said, “Mum – why doesn’t Corduroy live with his mummy?”
You know when kids are genuinely sad about something? Not unreasonably pissed about the fact that you won’t let them eat the entire jar of honey or traumatized that you’re insisting on mittens during a snowstorm. But when their small souls are truly shaken, like when they fall in front of a bunch of other kids at the playground, or are confronted with sudden news that they’re being left with a babysitter. This was that kind of sadness. I folded Charlie up in my arms and tried to figure out a strategy to cobble his tender heart back together.
“Lisa loves Corduroy buddy – see how happy Corduroy is with her?” I showed him the picture of Lisa and Corduroy snuggling. Big smiles on both faces. Clear indicators of happiness.
“No! Why doesn’t he live with his mum?”
“Well,” I said, fumbling over my logic, “Corduroy’s a big bear, so he decided to live with Lisa.” Even as the words left my mouth, I knew I was full of shit.
“But he’s just a small bear!” Charlie wailed, burrowing deeper into my lap.
And of course, he’s right. Corduroy is just a small bear. I rocked my sad little philosopher, rubbing his back, realizing words were not gonna help in this case. He eventually toddled off to investigate what Wren was doing with his favorite blue car, but Charlie’s disarming awareness of one of life’s greatest tragedies (that children grow up and leave us) made me think about Corduroy and his mummy for the rest of the day. Where was she? Did she and the owners of the department store make some sort of black market deal? Did she miss Corduroy? Will she visit him at Lisa’s house?
Getting the opportunity to relive experiences and emotions through children is one of the major pluses of parenthood. We feel their unbridled joy at visiting Thomas Land, we feel their disdain when confronted with a mall Santa. We get really excited about Easter egg hunts. Dandelion fluff. It’s awesome. But kids also make us reconsider life’s harder truths. Time. Death. Loss. Separation.
I’ll have to prepare for our eventual reread of Corduroy, and come up with a more convincing backstory of Corduroy’s fraught family life. But for the time being, I’m grateful my own little bear still sleeps a few doors down from his mum.