My two-year-old’s favorite toy is a stuffed, green lamb.Wherever Annabelle goes, Lambie goes too.
Even after he’s been washed, Lambie always has a gray tint to him. He spends a lot of his time face down on the ground. He’s probably responsible for half the infections that swirl through our house. It’s a scary thing when Annabelle insists we kiss E. coli Lambie.
I washed Lambie last week (though no one would be able to tell), but the very day he emerged from the washing machine, he acquired a red stain on his face. This is because he insisted on taking a ketchup laden bite. I told him not to, but Lambie can really dig his hooves in when he wants something.
When Annabelle was younger, Lambie bath days were traumatic. I counted it a triumph when I successfully snuck him into the machine. I was so naïve. When Annabelle discovered the theft, she knelt at the machine, screaming and wailing as she watched her lovie tumble in suds. You’d expect a happy reunion when Lambie finally emerged, but no. He was wet and deemed uncuddlable. Annabelle threw him down, cried, tried to cuddle him, threw him down, and screamed some more. It was easier to skip the wash and let the bacteria fester.
Lambie assumes a prominent position in the household. He attends all meals (as evidenced by the condiments on his face). Whenever there is a lull in dinnertime conversation—ha! That’s a joke. There’s never a lull in conversation when her five-year-old brother is present—but when Annabelle is able to shove a comment into the melee that is dinner, she often says, “I want you to talk about Lambie.”
We try. We really do. But after the fiftieth time this request is made, the conversational well runs dry.
Lambie is a useful motivator, though. When Annabelle refuses to eat her vegetables, Lambie promises to clap after each bite. It’s amazing how much easier the broccoli goes down when applauding livestock are present.
Whenever we leave the house, Annabelle says, “Lambie will come too.” And he does. But Annabelle is a fair weather friend. When she sees something more interesting, Lambie, that love of her life, is tossed on the ground. How many times have we been on the freeway, minutes from home, when Annabelle’s small cry of “Where’s Lambie?” fills the car.
Once we searched the library for him until Annabelle finally remembered she’d buried him in the box with the other stuffed animals. I would never have found him there. Another time Lambie spent the night at the Granite Store. Andy assured me Annabelle was too young to care or miss him. But the next morning when I said we were going to the Granite Store, Annabelle ran to the window, pressed her little hands to the glass, and cried out, “Lambie!” She stationed herself there until we left to retrieve her marooned friend.
More recently, Lambie stayed three days and nights at a friend’s house. I searched the house several times for him before we left and enlisted Annabelle’s help, but Annabelle was too busy playing to be concerned. After we left, Lambie was discovered hiding in the closet. Apparently, he’d been playing hide and seek, waiting for Annabelle and her friend to find him. Maybe this experience will teach Lambie not to run and hide right before it’s time to leave.
Lambie likes to wear dresses and put bows in his ears, but Annabelle refers to him as a “he.” This frustrates Colin, who sees this as Not Right. When asked his gender, Lambie sometimes says he’s a boy, sometimes a girl, and sometimes just Lambie. Perturbed, Colin attacked the question from a different angle: Is Lambie a Mr. or a Mrs.? This resulted in an angry tirade from Annabelle, with both the answer and source of the anger remaining unclear. Slowly, Colin has come to accept these ambiguous answers, so Lambie has done his part for teaching acceptance of gender differences. It almost makes up for him being a travelling petri dish. Almost.
Lambie isn’t always an angel. Once the kids were yelling in the house, and when Andy told them to be quiet, Annabelle explained, “That was Lambie.” Colin corroborated this story. Lambie was promptly sent to time out, but that by no means cured him.
Annabelle has hugged Lambie with such vehemence that he no longer has any stuffing in his neck. Sometimes when I say, “I love you, Annabelle,” she responds, “I love Lambie!” And I think she does. Lambie fulfills a need that somehow the rest of us can’t. She loves him with a fierce love that cannot be destroyed. Unless he’s hiding and there are other toys to play with. Or if we’re in the Granite Store and she notices a particularly stunning cut.