…new Unk, that is. We had a minor tragedy on Christmas Eve. Somewhere between the narthex of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, and our parked van (that includes a set of stairs, two sidewalks, and the parking lot), Trooper accidentally dropped his favorite blue dinosaur, “Unk.” We haven’t brought Unk to Church with us in ages, mainly because it’s a comfort object and Trooper doesn’t need those in Church. However, I grabbed it at the last moment because I knew Church would be crowded and it was definitely not our usual time for Mass so I thought he might want it. The absence of Unk was unnoticed until all the children were readied for bed and Haus Meister began the Rosary. Trooper snuggled down into bed and made the sign for “Unk” (his modified version of the ASL sign for “dinosaur”). At that moment my heart sank. I recalled that I hadn’t seen the toy as Trooper came inside, so I bundled up and went out to check the van. Nothing.
In the past this would have been more of a nightmare. It used to be that Trooper could not sleep without Unk. One time we were up at my parents’ house while Haus Meister was away on business, and Rascal had–unbeknownst to all of us–tossed Unk behind a large and unwieldy piece of furniture and Unk went undiscovered for three days. That was back in the long ago era when my boys took naps. Wow…. There were days like that? Anyway, for three days Trooper could not nap and only fell asleep at night with Grandpa lying next to him and Trooper’s firm chubby three & a half year old grip on Grandpa’s shirt. I almost bought the spare on eBay then, but held off, because I knew Unk had to be in the house.
So as I came into the house on Christmas Eve, I was missing Unk as much as that three year old had. Unk has been a part of our lives since 2004, after all, even moreso since Trooper adopted it as HIS TOY at 18mos. No packing list was complete without Unk. It went with us to Idaho and Colorado, to Indiana and Virginia. It has been with Trooper during his hospitalizations for ear tubes & tonsilectomy, as well as the two seizure episodes. Unk was the go-to comfort object when therapy sessions, family celebrations and even Christmas got to be too much for the sensory-challenged Trooper. Unk has had a million “baths” in the washing machine, has been microwaved, drooled on, juiced on, milked on, dropped inside, dropped outside, dropped in the car, seen everything and done everything a toddler could do with a toy in hand. His button eyes were chewed off when Trooper was getting his 12 month molars, and new eyes were made with a satin stitch by my mother, who also improved the smile. I even performed open-rattle surgery on Unk sometime back, replacing a broken rattle with one from another toy. Maybe I’ve seen Toy Story too many times, but I felt sorry that so loyal a friend should have had such an end.
It’s possible it might still turn up, although my sister did not see it when she searched two lost & founds at the Church on the 26th. The parking lots had all been recently plowed, so we guess Unk might have ended up plowed into a snowbank, picked up by another kid, or run over by countless cars as there were still four Christmas Masses to go that night. If it does show up again, I think I’d like to have it back, if nothing else but to keep in Trooper’s baby box with all his mementos.
Meanwhile, eBay came to the rescue. Even though Trooper has adapted to some of his sensory issues (meaning, he doesn’t need Unk to comfort him for everything), he has actually gone to sleep these few nights without Unk, and he is, after all, seven!–I really didn’t want the Unk stage to end unless it was Trooper’s decision. He can’t, after all, tell me point blank how much he does or doesn’t need the toy, just signs for him every night as he’s going to sleep. So, I found Replacement Unk on eBay. It arrived in the mail today. My first thought was that Unk looked better than I’d seen him in years! Trooper grinned from ear-to-ear, and went to the bedroom and laid down on the bed with his new Unk. He smiled, and made the sign for “Unk.” All was well.
***Update: Original Unk found next to the parking lot after the snow melted. He’d been plowed into a snowbank in between Masses!