“She’s in here somewhere, sweetheart.” I tried to reassure.
“But what if she’s lost again?” My daughter’s voice sounded full of worry, as we both continued our search for her small, striped stuffed cat known as ‘Clementine.’ Clementine had been lost before, years ago, during the days when my daughter was much younger and had insisted on kitty cat company for various trips in the car. Luckily, we had been able to locate a suitable replacement for Clementine, who soon became a nightime-only companion. Along with ‘Brownie’, Clementine’s chocolate-colored counterpart, these two vestiges of childhood now provide a quiet but much needed tether to the simpler days of childhood for my budding adolescent.
“It’s strange that Brownie’s here… but Clementine isn’t,” I quipped, working hard to sound off-hand and casual, knowing full well we now faced a potential mini-crisis.
“I can’t sleep without Clementine,” my daughter inserted the unsettling truth.
“She’s in here somewhere,” I repeated, as I lifted her comforter up for the third time. “We will find her.” For ten minutes, we quietly inspected any likely location for the missing Clementine: under the bed, behind the bed, beneath the desk, in the closet… nowhere could we catch any sight of the striped stuffy.
Anxiety began to rise, like pressure inside a capped bottle. It was late. I had to do something.
“Let’s go ask Mama,” I suggested. As silently as possible, I ascended the stairs with my daughter in tow. I knew my wife had just gotten my five-year-old to sleep, and this would likely be our last hope. Once upstairs with my iPhone flashlight now illuminated, I gently pushed open the door. I whispered, “We can’t find Clementine.” At first, nothing. Then I heard my wife stir. Although I could not see her, I was fairly certain my wife had fallen asleep next to my youngest.
“Bring the light over,” she whispered. Tiptoeing across the room, I approached my youngest daughter’s bed and allowed the light to gently spill across the sleeping toddler. There, resting peacefully upon the little one’s chest… was Clementine. My youngest, now asleep, lay calmly on her back, clutching the stuffed cat with both hands.
A silent theft!
Next to me, I could hear my oldest daughter begin to seethe. As gently as possible, I removed the stolen object from the hands of a very sweet little thief and handed it to the freshly angered girl next to me in the dark room. “Okay, honey, let’s get you to bed,” I said.