Our synchronized blog subject for the week, proposed by Susie, is “dead pets.” I’ve only had one pet in my life that died. This was the German Shepard I had a child. His name was Bud, and he was very sweet. He died while I was away at college, and my sister called to tell me. I was sad, but not as sad as I would have liked to be. With a few exceptions, death is kind of like that for me.
I am, on the other hand, for some reason capable of forming very fierce attachments to inanimate objects, (ask Paul about my bunny). As a child I had very warm feelings toward my stuffed and/or soft objects. I had many, but the inner circle was as follows: A dog with a name tag that said Henry; an alligator; an item that looked like a sun—a stuffed circle with orange felt triangles about it’s radius and a smiling face, but which contained a wind-up music box that played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, so was more likely a star; a blue bean-filled mouse from the hospital gift shop where I had my adnoids taken out when I was six; an embroidered quilt; and a small pillow, which I called, “the soft pillow.” The soft pillow was the first to go. It’s silky exterior had become more fray than cloth, it was basically cotton batting held together by threads in a team effort. Still, each night I searched for it among the blankets, and placed at the head of the bed, underneath the mouse. Sometimes I couldn’t find it in the dark, and would have to wait until the next morning to find it tucked between the bed-frame and the mattress. Sometimes by morning I would be in a hurry and forget to look.
One week, several nights passed in this way, until one night, worried, I crept to the stairs in my pajamas and called down to my mom, asking if she had seen it. There was a pause.
“I think it’s in the laundry. I’ll look for it tomorrow.”
I went to bed happy in the thought that the next day I would be reunited with the soft pillow.
However, it was not to be. The next day, my mom had to ‘fess up and admit what she had avoided telling me the night before: She had thrown away my soft pillow.
“I thought you had forgotten about it,” she said.
I was devastated. I went up to my room and sobbed, and had very little to say to my mother for days. In retrospect, I think she must have felt terrible. She has refused to throw away anything since. Twenty years after leaving my parent’s home, when I visit, she still asks my permission before throwing or giving away items in the closet of my room.
But in the moment, I had no sympathy for her, which is probably why after a couple of days my father came up to talk to me and told me this story:
“You know, there was a kid who had a pet turtle named Max. When the turtle died he was crying and crying and wouldn’t stop until his father said, ‘Why don’t we have a funeral for Max?’
“They painted a shoe-box for the coffin, and invited some neighborhood kids to the service. The boy got to give a speech about Max and after they buried him, the boys mother gave everyone some ice-cream.
“When a week or so had gone by, the boy’s father took him to the pet store to get a new turtle. On the way home the boy asked, ‘Can we kill this one too, and have another funeral?’”
I didn’t then, and don’t now know what the point of this story was supposed to be, but I do think it was intended to cheer me up.
Over the years, the pain of losing the soft pillow has subsided, I have quit praying that it and I, along with my small committee of stuffed animals, will find each other in heaven after I die. Conversely, however, my feelings of nostalgia have increased for certain things I never saw…the conference my parents must have had, my mom, younger than I am now, remorseful, remaining in the kitchen, and my dad heading up the stairs to face an angry and unforgiving little girl, armed only with a tenderness I could not yet appreciate, and some fucked-up story about a turtle.