By: Tanya Ward Goodman
We’ve been losing things lately. Nothing huge. Nothing breathing. But it’s discombobulating none the less. We’ve lost the stuffed bunny that accompanied my daughter everywhere. We’ve lost a jacket. And another jacket. One orange fleece and so cozy, the other orange windproof and purchased a little big so we could get two seasons out of it.
Yes, I dress my son like he’s going deer hunting because yes, I like to see his bright orange self dart across the park in the fading light of day. Orange is the best color for a nine-year-old boy to wear. All of his clothing should be day-glo so that I can follow him easily with my eyes while having seemingly calm conversations with the parents of his friends.
We’ve lost a bunny. Bunny, the bunny. I gloss over his loss in the first paragraph, but he deserves another, so deep is the groove of missing he’s left in our household. Bunny had a tuxedo and several collars. He was the manager of a cardboard penthouse that grew by the day (and postal delivery) in my front hall. His waist was slim from being held in the crook of my daughter’s arm. His fur was matted. His eyes scratched to milky cataracts from trips through the washer and dryer. He was beloved.
My son lost a remote control bird on the very day he received it. An early Christmas present (or late Hanukkah gift – we are very flexible). The bird was bright yellow and flew in the most marvelous way. It flapped its wings gracefully around our living room, soared over the sofa and the mismatched chairs. It dive-bombed the mantle and the crowd of Lego figures huddled amidst the candlesticks. It was a wonderful thing.
“Don’t take it outside,” we said. “The wind is blowing very hard.”
The boy took the bird outside.
Less than a minute later, the bird was gone.
Tonight, nearly three weeks later, the tears of loss are shed. My boy realized the bird is not coming back. The bird has been blown into the street or onto a roof. The sun has rotted its fragile wings, faded the bright plastic body. The bird is gone. My boy banishes the remote controller from his room.
“Darned controller,” he says. “It lost the bird.”
Bunny, too will not return. Buses and airplanes and airports have been searched. I try not to think of Bunny on the tarmac, of Bunny in a trashcan. I try to imagine him safe in the arms of another child. I want the Pixar ending.
“Don’t talk about “The B-Word,” my daughter says.
My children are learning of loss and it breaks my heart. I’m taking these lessons hard. I’ve lost friends and beautiful dresses, a great pair of cowboy boots, lovers, an emerald necklace, my first tap shoes. I’ve lost things as insignificant as the back of an earring. I’ve lost my father.
I am trying to see my children through this period of loss. I am trying to see myself through it too. It does not get easier, just more familiar. In the last several years, I have begun to see each loss as the end of a story. What I know and my children are just beginning to learn is that there are always more stories. Different stories. But good stories, still.