When I read this touching story about a 6-year-old boy who lost his beloved stuffed Hobbes tiger while traveling with his family, only to have it discovered by airport staffers who took it on a fun adventure before returning it safely to the boy’s arms a week later, I immediately thought of my daughter, Plum, and her lifelong love affair with a plush security blanket by the name of Molly Bear.
Molly Bear is neither a teddy bear, nor is she a coverlet. She’s something in-between: a now-ratty, off-white, square piece of soft goodness with a stuffed bear’s head attached to one corner. Bodiless and small enough to hug closely, some parents call these baby toys “lovies.” Plum calls hers Molly Bear, a moniker she bequeathed to the blankie as soon as she was old enough to speak. She’s slept with Molly every night since she was born. Now almost 8, my daughter sleeps with her still.
I admit I get impatient with Molly Bear. She has the habit of disappearing when you need her most. I can’t tell you how many times over the years our household has experienced a four-star alarm right before bedtime because Molly has suddenly gone missing. The whole family springs into action as Plum, red-faced with rivers of snot suddenly running from her nostrils, stifles worried tears.
Is she buried in the couch cushions? I shout like a sergeant at boot camp, pointing and waving and demanding results, as my troops frantically scatter to aid in the search. Is she hiding in the attic? Could she have been stashed on a random bookshelf while her owner was searching for something to read? Or is she tucked behind the television inside the media cabinet? Could she perhaps have slid between Plum’s mattress and the bedframe, for goodness sakes? And has anyone checked the cereal cupboard yet?
For the love of God, where is Molly Bear???
When babysitters arrive, especially new ones, I school them on the importance of this dingy piece of cloth, and explain how, if peace is to prevail while we are out, Molly Bear must be guarded with the undivided attention normally reserved for the star witness of an upcoming Mob trial. Whatever you do, do not lose her!
As Plum has grown older, she has not outgrown her affection for her Molly. She is, however, keenly aware of how “babyish” this seems to other kids, especially her friends. Reluctantly, she now agrees to leave her little lovey on her pillow in her bedroom, which, let me tell you, has reduced the family agita level tenfold, since we can now generally contain our search to, at most, her 13-by-14-foot room. (Molly clearly likes to break the rules; we often spy her sitting on the window bench, or even lazily lounging on the floor.)
However, Molly did manage one last major breakout, right before the new rules were enforced. And just like little Owen Lake in Tampa, Florida, who left behind his favorite toy at the airport, the fiasco happened while we were traveling.
We were living in Los Angeles then, and we’d decided to drive up to San Francisco for the kids’ spring break. For a special treat, we checked into the beautiful Fairmont Hotel atop historic Nob Hill for a few nights.
On our first morning there, we woke up fresh and ready to explore the bustling city. Like most hotel dwellers, we didn’t make our beds. And Molly Bear, whom Plum had insisted join us on vacation, was left amid the rumpled white sheets. Or was it the wet, white towels on the bathroom floor? When we returned later that afternoon before dinner, our room was immaculate. And Molly Bear was gone.
We combed every nook and cranny. We panicked. Plum began hyperventilating. I made an urgent phone call to the concierge, who suggested I contact the laundry room. When I did, I was immediately informed of how dire the odds were. “We send out literally thousands of pounds of linens each week. If Molly Bear was accidentally swept up with the sheets or towels, the odds of us finding one small white blanket? I’m so sorry, but they’re not very good!”
Plum was inconsolable. To her credit, she put on a brave face and tried to enjoy our holiday over the following few days as we took a boat ride around Alcatraz, looked for sea lions sunning themselves on Pier 39 and took selfies at the Golden Gate Bridge. She sobbed quietly into her lonely pillow at night, trying not to make a fuss. But she was heartbroken. And a few days later we packed up the minivan, Molly-less, and drove back home.
Once we returned, Plum was, in a word, glum.
Until we got a phone call, about a week later.
“Great news!” the concierge told me, almost as elated as I was. “The staff felt so terrible for accidentally taking poor Molly Bear. They really searched. And they just found her! She was indeed with all the bed sheets!”
Knowing how often I lose socks and underwear in my own laundry, and how easy it is to do so within the tumbling sheets, I marveled at the dedication shown by these caring employees. They must have killed themselves to track down Plum’s white lovey, camouflaged as just another blanket among all that bedding.
“Please tell Plum we’re sending Molly Bear on an adventure today,” the concierge continued. “She’s flying FedEx and will arrive at your home first thing tomorrow. She’s definitely had a scare, but Plum will have her soon!”
When Plum heard this report, it was like Christmas and her birthday combined, times 10. She squealed and danced a jig on the spot. I’ve never seen this, or any, kid as happy as my daughter was that afternoon.
And when the stiff white box arrived on our doorstep the next day, we tore it open to find Molly Bear smiling back at us. Plum broke out into tears over their reunion. She hugged Molly as if she’d never let go. Her best friend was back.
Of course, a few hours later when it was time for bed, I heard the familiar strains of my daughter’s voice echoing down from upstairs:
“Molly? Molly? Oh, no! Where did that Molly Bear go?”