“Mommy, this lovey has boo-boo!” my two year old said, concern edging his voice.
The five-year old stopped bouncing on my bed long enough to snag his worn lion lovey back into his arms. I yawned and said, “No, honey, it’s just been loved so much.”
But he couldn’t let it go, “See, here, boo-boo!” He pointed to the stuffed toy’s head, and indeed, on closer inspection, what looked like a stitch mark was really a little hole in the terry fabric of the lion lovey’s forehead.
Now I was awake, and concerned. With no fabric left, there was nothing to repair. Lion Lovey’s arms and legs were already in shreds from post-pacifier chewing.
My oldest son stuck his finger though the hole he’d once bitten through the lions arm as a two year old and twirled the lion around and around his finger excitedly. Then he grabbed his second Lion Lovey, more worn than the first, and happily swung them both around and around in the air.
Oh yes, he has two identical Lion Loveys…
…in early 2012, I went on a trip to New York City with a friend, and as we had to leave so early, my son brought along Lion Lovey #1. Somehow, between there and arriving home, the little lion went missing. My son had recently attached strong to his loveys (the lion also is joined by four “flat loveys,” which are merely cloth wipes he grew fond of as a baby), so I told my son that lion lovey had stayed in New York City on vacation. Then I hopped on Amazon.com and quickly ordered a new lion lovey! Hence, Lion Lovey #2.
However, months later, probably six or eight even, my friend discovered the first lion in the sliding door to her van! Lion Lovey returned home! I’m not sure how he felt upon seeing he had been replaced… and I was worried my son would be confused, but actually he was delighted to find his loveys had multiplied…
My heart broke a little, seeing those much-loved and squished and tossed and hugged and snuggled Lion Loveys clutched in my growing boy’s hands. “Be gentle, honey, those little guys are wearing out,” I cautioned.
He froze at my words. Looked down at the two lions, saw their tattered paws. And when his eyes rose back to meet mine, those sparkling blue pools brimmed with tears.
Nothing. Not one thing. Has ever moved him to tears like this. Tears filled my eyes, too, as I watched my boy struggle with emotions.
We leaned into each other, his body shaking against my shoulder. I cried with him. For Lion Loveys, for their comforting squishiness, for their soft and ragged legs, for their terrycloth sides kissed and hugged smooth. “We’ll be happy for all those years of love,” I promised.
I knew he knew… all our happy memories could never bring Lion Lovey back in all his glory.
Five-plus years ago… a bit before Lion Lovey came to live in our house… when I held this boy in my arms for the first time… true, I was elated! Yet I didn’t feel like a mom right away. In fact, for months, I felt having this little one all ours was some kind of dream. Like someone would ring the bell and say, “Thanks for watching him,” and I’d turn out to be no more than the babysitter.
In the Velveteen Rabbit, the Skin Horse talks about becoming Real: “It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time.”
It didn’t happen all at once for me… it took a long time, but all the way I was becoming.
My baby boys. My loveys. They’ve worn me in and worn me out, worn me round and round in endless tiny battles, and in the process I thought I’d flat out wear away some days… but instead, I became Real.
The years of baby sighs and midnight cries wore away to toddler wont’s and why’s. The first smiles, laughs, teeth, words, and steps gave way to first somersaults, park slides, roller coaster rides … and first words-read-by-himself.
All those kisses, hugs, and snuggles, and I barely noticed his chubby cheeks wearing off into a little boy’s angled face. His pudgy legs lengthening into strong pumping legs that run far and wide.
When he’s sleeping, his cheeks rounded by the pillow underneath. I see something familiar in those pursed lips and that tumbled hair.
As they grow, I’ll keep looking for those glimpses of the boys who helped me to become Real. As babyhood fades to toddlerhood and then to boyhood… it does hurt. But then, “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”
WRITER’s WORKSHOP NOTES
Where did the idea come from? I drafted this piece based on some list making and brainstorming I’d done in my writer’s notebook! We’d had this moment, described above, with his Lion Loveys. And also, I’d recently posted on Instagram about how his lovey has “become Real”... so the two together created the perfect opportunity for writing.
How did it develop? Now… I didn’t expect when I started writing, that I would wax reflective on motherhood, and the wearing away of years. That sort of just happened as I wrote. Sometimes that is how it goes. I feel like the narrative part was over too quickly. This was definitely one of those moments that when it happened, I knew I had to write about it, but, at the same time, I’d already collected the idea to write about his Lovey in my notebook, and then it showed up on my Instagram, so when this moment happened, it felt like everything came together for me. THIS is the beauty of gathering ideas and letting them germinate… when the moment happens, you’ve already been thinking about what to say!
Revision and Editing? I drafted in my WordPress editor. Which is not something I generally used to recommend because you can’t always see your work after deleting things you don’t like. But I was on a time crunch! After seeing the motherhood angle come out of the narrative, I worked to smooth the storyline into my reflection. But I think it could use a bit more finesse. Also I realize I have mixed my allusion with the title and the reference to The Velveteen Rabbit. This is a particular problem of mine – overuse of metaphor and allusion. I need to work on it!
Next steps? For now, I am going to let this piece rest. I’ve captured the moment at least, and if I need it for something else down the road, I can always snip it out of this piece! My writing focus this summer is to gather lots of ideas and draft them out, and revise them just a little bit. But mostly to just get the ideas and words down.
I’d love your feedback on this piece. If you’re following along the Write in the Moment writing workshop, please share what you’re working on (either in the comments or on my Facebook page!). I’d love to chat about our writing life!