I heard it in the wee hours of the morning. It was still dark out.
A little voice, calling through the darkness with great anguish, seeking solace from the presence of her favorite person in the universe. Me.
And as all good (or honest) mothers do, I put her off for a couple minutes. She didn't sound seriously distressed. I knew she couldn't be injured because she was calling from her bed. No danger of falling off a bike or imminent disaster involving bloodshed could be possible at this hour.
Perhaps she'll go back to sleep, I thought.
When is the last time any mother said this to herself and saw it actually happen? The odds of winning a lottery you didn't even buy a ticket for are considerably higher.
And so, after a few minutes as I listened to her cries grow increasingly indignant, I pulled myself from the warmth of my new down comforter, tried to be very quiet so as not to disturb my peacefully sleeping husband (Oh, whoops...did I accidentally throw the covers off of YOU instead of me? My mistake, babe, go back to sleep...), and padded my way down the carpeted hallway to her room.
There she was, sitting up in her bed with her pillow pet and favorite stuffed puppy dog surrounding her. She looked kind of mad.
Really mad, actually. As if she'd caught me trying to pull a fast one on her. Which, to be truthful, is exactly what had happened. It just took her a while to catch on.
You see, the night before, I had kind of reached my limit. I'd been "on" for the last 13 hours and was pretty much done with the whole "be a good mother" thing. So again, as all good (or honest) mothers sometimes do in those moments, I suggested that I needed some snuggle time with my girls in my big king sized bed.
This is code for "I'll let you watch t.v. if you'll just lay here quietly and let me veg out for a bit before bed."
Of course they were ecstatic. We watched some show on TLC about a wedding dress shop and finding the 'perfect gown'. They were really into it, especially my middle one, who had a running commentary going on the bustles and the length of the trains and the bling...which is a little bit scary to me as I have THREE perfect gowns to pay for in my future, but I digress...
Anyway, the youngest darling fell asleep in my bed somewhere around the time we watched a bridesmaid telling a bride she looked like she'd stepped out of the shower with a white towel on instead of a dress. This of course was my master plan all along.
She was carefully and painstakingly placed in her own little bed and we called it a night. Phew, I thought...that was sweet AND did not involve a huge pajama war. Perfect.
Perfect, that is, until I walked into her room to pay the piper for my deeds.
It came down to this: I had put her to bed without the love of her life. Her reason for living. Her source of strength and inspiration:
"Kissee," her beloved pink fuzzy blanket. She named it all by herself.
I knew I had done it. I only kind of made an effort to look for it as I tucked her into bed. After all, she was already asleep and was offering no protest. She'd find it in the morning after she got up.
She looked at me with her angry eyes. The judgement and condemnation written all over her chubby cheeks. Even her ringlets looked mad. In slow and overpronunciated words, she communicated to me my grievous charge: "Where. Is. Kissee."
Sweat began to form on my brow. I looked over at her sleeping sister in the other twin bed. The words were on my lips to blame her. I could make up some story about how "I think your big sister had it last". But something about the innocent way she was sucking her thumb and snuggling her favorite bunny discouraged my lying tongue.
Guilty. There was no way around the charge. Now I must serve my time.
And so, without a word, I turned, padded back down the carpeted hall, and began the search and rescue operation in the dark. I checked the bathrooms, the playroom, the guest room, under the beds, in the laundry basket. No Kissee. I staggered, bleary-eyed, down the stairs and checked the family room, the living room, under the dining room table. No Kissee. I even went out in the cold garage and checked in the van. Nothing. Not a trace of Kissee to be found.
Fearing the reaction I would face when I revealed this sad truth, I came up with a plan. Yes, I thought, this would definitely work.
A moment later, I pasted a smile on my face, added a little bounce to my step (which is not easy at this hour of the morning), and presented my daughter with a "brand new, BIG, SOFT blanket from...the closet!" Unsure at first, she tentatively reached out for the fleece blanket in my hands. She examined it, grabbed a fistful, put her thumb in her mouth, and the blanket up to her nose, as is her custom.
One second later, she looked at me with utter disgust and said, "Mom. This blanket smells like butter. I cannot use it."
Seriously? Butter? How is that even possible as it's been stored in the bathroom closet for months? I took a little whiff and confirmed that she was making up an outrageous claim. And yet, I knew it was futile to argue.
Back to the closet. Blanket #2. This time a huge king sized blanket that just about knocked me over when I pulled it down from the top shelf. I dragged it to her room, found my smile and perkiness once more, and happily presented it to her.
Again with the fistful of blanket, the thumb sucking, and the holding of the blanket up to her nose.
And again, I was met with defeat and rejection.
I was getting desperate. There was only one more blanket left. I had a feeling this was going to end very badly for all of us if I couldn't find an acceptable Kissee substitute. And fast.
Just as I was about to step out of her room for the third time to find another offering to the little dictator, I heard her say some beautiful words. Music to my ears.
"Okay, Mom, I'll just use Anda."
Anda. Another blanket she named all on her own. The blanket I've been trying to get her to love for about a year now in case Kissee should ever turn up missing. Anda sleeps in her bed every night along with Kissee (not because she wants it, but because I'm working on growing her affection for it). Anda rests on her bed, alone and unloved, night after night. And yet, in my child's moment of greatest need and loneliness, Anda was there to hear the call.
Anda. The hero I always knew she could be. In our darkest hour, it was Anda who saved us all.
That little blanket will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Fast forward about 3 hours. In walks my little princess, happily clutching the missing Kissee.
"What in the world?! WHERE did you find Kissee?"
"In the pantry."
Of course. Why didn't I think of that?