Sunday, January 27, 2013

Nursery magic

It was as fine a specimen of fluff-filled horseflesh as any.

Fully three-feet tall, the butterscotch-colored mare was still smooth and plump after all these years. She had held up well. Most other seven-year-old toys as well-loved as Butterscotch would have been run ragged by this point. Yet she exhibited no thinness of fur or bursting of seams, no lameness or weakness of legs.

A person would have to look closely, squinting their eyes, to see the wear around her edges. They'd have to be absolutely attentive to discern the lipstick-colored fur around her muzzle and the powdered blue sheen around her eyes weren't part of her original beauty.

Butterscotch has served my children well.

She'd been a plaything of amazing versatility given her size and lack of movement. She'd galloped in the infantry of their imaginations with a quiet grace … especially when the sound sensors in her ears – the ones that played “Home on the Range” and made clip-clop noises when pressed – stopped working.

The children's love for her was unshaken.

The nursery magic wore on even as her specialness wore off.

She was the first thing we moved into Ittybit's new room in the new house, and the last thing Bitty saw when she went to sleep at night. Even as we stand on the edge of the t'ween years, I'd knock on her door and find my daughter draped over the horse, reading, as if in a comfortable chair, whenever I opened it.
So I was surprised, and a little bit flustered, to find Butterscotch in the hallway outside Ittybit's bedroom one morning, where I'd guessed she was stoically waiting for an imaginary gate to open so she could go out to proverbial pasture.

I'd read the “Velveteen Rabbit.” I knew “real beauty” has nothing to do with “physical beauty,” but somehow I'd deluded myself into taking that premise and extending it to mothers who'd had babies later in life.

Babies, I'd convinced myself, would keep me young even as I grew old.

Of course, I hadn't considered that in a blink of an eye the babies wouldn't be babies anymore. But the proof was there in hallway … as clear as any mirror image of my face in harsh light … that the nursery magic was over.

Which meant Butterscotch and I were just old nags: She'd be silently collecting dust in the storage room above the garage and I would be hollering at them to clean their rooms.

Tears started to stab at my already sleep-puffy eyes as I turned and trudged downstairs with dread to find out our fate.

Found Ittybit dressed and ignoring her breakfast as usual. She'd ask me if I liked the earrings she selected for the day and then tell me all about her plans for the day.

I'd make her lunch, ask if she remembered to pack her homework, her library book, and if she had her sneakers for gym. Hesitantly, I asked what were her plans for Butterscotch.

She looked at me quizzically for a moment, as if I'd been speaking in a foreign language, and then it dawned on her she'd pushed the toy into the hallway.

“I was planning on asking The Champ if he wanted her … but then I realized she still keeps me calm when I'm reading. And he'll just draw on her with Sharpie anyway, then she won't be any good for my children one day. ...

“So I decided I'm just going to move her back into my room for a while.”

I smiled. I had my magical moment of reprieve (albeit provided by fear, longing and a little boy's love of indelible ink) but magic all the same.

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