During this last spring break my daughter and I found ourselves outside of Build-A-Bear store entrance. Part by crazy logistical construction detour chance, part by my daughter’s persistence, and despite my reluctance to walk in that general direction, we found ourselves standing at the very door of this mother-load of memories. This was it, hers and daddy’s place, where they built that tacky pink unicorn which I regularly hid from the visitors’ view, only because of its obnoxious size and its horribly pink exterior. This unicorn, the special darling project and memento of my late husband and his girl, the witness of their adventures together, only few years ago, held within its foot the precious recording of his voice, saying: I love you my sweet, beautiful Sasha.
It was shortly after my husband’s unexpected death that my daughter and I discovered the unicorn stopped playing and suspected we had to take it back to the store to replace its battery. This “easy task” took last two years for us to accomplish. And here we were, after all this time, deciding if the moment was right to finally enter and ask if we would ever be able to hear him say this to her again.
My daughter entered in front of me, and as soon as she did, either the emotional or the sensory overload kicked in and she ran off eager to get away and explore. I stood there for a moment, unsure if I felt betrayed by her leaving me alone, unsure if I wouldn’t cry when I was supposed to speak, trying to decide whom to talk to about the possibility of replacing the battery in the foot of the pink beast which kept hostage the sweet voice and precious recording of my honey, her daddy, our love. I walked around pretending to look at things until I caught the eye of a very sweet looking dark haired girl with a big welcoming smile, offering assistance. Her attitude was so delightful, and her smile was genuine, she seemed perfect for what I needed to do, so I decided to keep my feelings light, not mention daddy, and inquire only in a general way.
The moment I explained we had a unicorn and needed to replace the battery in its foot, she responded in a rehearsed, friendly way, saying how all we needed to do is bring the pink monstrosity in and they would take out the old device and replace it with a new one, which they sold for around $8. Easy-peasy.
“Do you mean to tell me that we cannot keep the recording we have now?” I said, practically pained by this new unexpected info. “Right”, she said, “to the best of my knowledge they are designed to last as long as the battery and be replaced. I don’t think they could be open. So you would get a new device put in, and record again.”
I gasped. I stood there with my mouth open, feeling total dread, as if I just found out that I lost him, all over again.
“But he died” I uttered with this panicked sense of urgency in my voice, as if it would help matters, “he recorded a message for my daughter on it” I said anxiously, now choking up on tears. The girl stood there looking at me for few very long seconds and she said “My daddy died when I was 8. How old is your daughter?” I looked around and pointed at Sasha “she is 8 now, she was 5 then”.
The next few minutes were spent in somber, problem solving discussion. We both agreed that I should purchase the new device, go home and play with it, to see if and how I could pry it open without breaking it, to access the battery, in hope that I could perform the same operation on the precious device with his voice on it. We walked over to the register, and while ringing me up, she told me about her dad, how he was terminally ill and dying, but told no one about it. Their mother knew, but kept it a secret from her and her siblings. He didn’t want them to know. He just went one day, and the kids were left in shock.
I paid and waited for the girl to hand me my device. She was taking an unusually long time to slide it into a paper bag and hand it to me. So I just stood there thinking about what looked like a chance encounter, which now felt like it was anything but. The girl just stood behind the counter staring at the device in her hands for what felt like an eternity.
Confused, and slightly despondent myself, thinking about everything that just happened, I leaned forward a bit to see her face and why she wasn’t handing me my purchase. What I saw left me instantly paralyzed and in tears. Her face was drowning in the flood curtain of tears, her body was trembling and the second I asked if she was okay, she broke down, into million little tear submerged pieces, each carrying a slice of her pain, regret, tears, of all of the unspoken, unfelt, unrealized, words, hugs, expressions, it all erupted out of her like molten rocks out of Mount Vesuvius, while she was frozen stil.
The girl knew that at the push of the button, on the foot of this stuffed creature Sasha would find comfort, repeated hundred times over if she needed it. She knew that this comfort was possibly permanently trapped inside a small plastic device, without power it needed to bring it to her. She knew that she had no such treasure from her dad to comfort her at bed time, and she could not understand why. She was unable to hand me my purchase, she felt unable to make it better for Sasha, to bring back her daddy’s voice saying sweet “I love you” to her, to both of them!
I asked if it would be okay if I gave her a hug. She politely declined, quickly handed me the bag and ran off to the back office to calm down, I found my girl and we left. I cried uncontrollably, for hours after this, as I am suspecting the sales girl did too. I ached deeply inside my skin and every bone with regret for causing a major heartbreak in a complete stranger, I considered that I have made a big mistake that day, I felt any other day may have been better to ask, that by trying to bring comfort to my girl, I have caused terrible discomfort to another.
Then when the topical pain of the experience wore off, and the tears stopped fogging up my heart’s vision, I realized that the timing, the setting, the characters, the feelings, the sentiments and expressions of grief and pain, were all meant to be, and they served their proper purpose and in some strange, wickedly painful, intense way, they brought on more healing, peace, gratitude and love our way than we ever suspected in those moments. I really hope that soon, she will feel the same.
Categories: Love and Lore
Tags: break down, children, comfort, comforting, daddy, daddy's voice, expressions, grief, healing, heartbreak, hugs, life lessons, loss, love, loving, meaningful, mementos, molten rocks, pain, pink unicorn, regret, tears, words