For the past few mornings I've woken up in the mornings with a major crick in my neck. The crick has led to headaches...and to fond memories and wishes. You see, the answer to my neck issues lies in my upstairs closet: Mousie!
When I was six years old, my grandma and grandpa gave each of their younger grandchildren a large teddy. My sister and most of my cousins received the gift of a large, stuffed, flowered turtle. But, perhaps because I was the grandchild that my Omi called the black sheep for as long as she lived, for me she chose something different: a two-foot long, cylindrical creature that resembled a Christmas-green-and-red-striped worm/snake....with a tail. I'm not sure what it symbolized for my Omi, but from the moment I saw that indescribable creature with the long tail, I loved him...perhaps because he was different than what the rest of my siblings/cousins received, perhaps because my Omi somehow knew what I'd love, and perhaps because she just always recognized something unique in me and chose to give me something a little different. Whatever the reason, I loved that perfect neck roll that I named Mousie, and I slept with him every single night - whether at home in my bed, on a sleepover at someone else's house, on family vacations in a motel or trailer, or at summer camp. When high school ended and I went to college in Vancouver for a couple of years, Mousie went with me; years later, when I moved to London to pursue more university education, Mousie went there, too.
It's a little embarrassing to admit that one of my worries about getting married and spending every night with someone in my bed was knowing that Mousie would have to go. Thus, shortly before we got married, and just before I headed back to the city of my birth, where we would get married, I held a private little ceremony in which I said good-bye to my night-time neck roll and friend of twenty-two years: Mousie went into the closet. I also, before flying, gave Geoff a key to my apartment, which would be ours shortly after we got back from our honeymoon; after I flew out, he planned to move his clothes and personal possessions in.
A couple of days before the wedding, Geoff flew in for the big day. The evening he arrived, he said that he had a surprise for me. While moving his clothes into our soon-to-be-shared closet, he had discovered Mousie tucked away in the closet. He thought that I'd forgotten him and so, with great flourish, he produced Mousie out of his suitcase! Imagine my shock. Imagine also my dismay, given that I thought I'd said my final farewells.
I like to blame on Geoff the fact that, for the following fifteen years, I continued to sleep with Mousie under my neck. He continued to be the perfect bedroll. Over the years, he was washed, restuffed, patched up, and protected from the little fingers of that beloved son of mine. But finally, less than a year ago, when I noticed poor Mousie looking fragile and threadbare and a little aged, I made a decision...it was, once again, time. Time to say good-bye to that creature who'd absorbed my laughter, screams, tears, kisses and secrets. Time to send him into a happy retirement in my closet, where he and I no longer had to worry about how much longer he'd last.
I'm almost a year now without my friend of thirty-eight years. And to be honest, I miss him still - the way he tucked up just so under my neck and chin, the way he supported my head. These days, as I toss and turn in my bed, and try in vain to cram a pillow just so into that hollow under my head, I often think of that odd little creature and the grandma who gave him to me. As I rub my sore neck for the third or fourth day in a row, and contemplate booking an appointment for my first ever massage to ease the crick, I long for that creature of indeterminate origins. But alas, given his precarious and worn condition, I simply cannot risk becoming accustomed to his perfection again. I am therefore now on the hunt for a substitute.
Someone asked me not that long ago the age-old question: if your house was on fire and you had only minutes to get out, what three things would you grab? My answer to that question, assuming that my family was safe, was immediately this: our photos; my computer; and Mousie. Everything else? Replaceable.