Almost all of us have some specific remnant(s) of our childhood we carry with us, a symbol of our earliest years. Things we can look at or sounds we hear that fill us with memories. Pictures that take us back to sitting on logs near the woodpile in the backyard eating Sweet Sixteen powdered donuts with your grandpa; songs that take us back to that roller-skating birthday party where your biggest focus was not falling in front of the boy you liked. Or a teddy bear that you named after Big Bird’s teddy bear when you were a preschooler that adored Sesame Street. We are blessed (or sometimes feel cursed) by a beautiful flood of memories that can come rushing back by association in a matter of moments.
Sometimes those moments come with the realization that life is speeding by faster than you had truly realized. Once you become a parent, the thing you may often hear the most is “before you know it, they’ll be grown.” And it’s true. It really is. As cliche as it sounds, you can just about “blink and those early days are gone.” We may feel it strongly when our kids take their first steps, say their first words, start picking out their own clothes, or begin their first year of school. Life is often measured in the “firsts”. Tonight I was hit by a mack truck of realization that involved a first I hadn’t really thought about and in many ways, am not quite ready for. It involves one of my daughter’s firsts- her first love really.
It can be argued that it was her father and I that occupy that “first love” place in her heart, and I suppose that is certainly true in many ways. But Lulu… Lulu has always held a special place in her heart, and it’s Lulu that has consistently been the symbol of my little girl’s childhood.
Lulu is a lamb. A lovely, lavender lamb that was given to us as a baby shower gift before my sweet girl was even born. She was the top of the diaper cake made by my friend Melissa in response to the knowledge that the theme for Eila’s nursery was The Lion and the Lamb. Because of this, we were blessed with many lambs. It took a few months of course, but Lulu soon became Eila’s favorite. From about six months onward, they were inseparable.
Like many beloved stuffed animals, blankies, and so forth, Lulu has gone everywhere with Eila- out of state to visit family, around town running errands, to offer comfort when Eila is scared or sad- Lulu is well-loved and well-traveled. Therefore, in almost every single picture of Eila from babyhood on, Lulu is there, peeking out from Eila’s elbow. She is like a member of the family- to the point that if I saw Lulu lying somewhere and I needed to move her, I felt almost guilty if I kicked her with my foot instead of gently picking her up and placing her down in a better location. Sometimes Lulu can almost make you believe, like Sara Crewe did about her doll Emily in A Little Princess, that she is really alive and would move if you left the room.
Due to Lulu’s loved status, she has become quite worn over the years. As threadbare as The Velveteen Rabbit and cuddled just as much if not more so, her stuffing began to poke through and she was on the verge of unraveling in many areas. A kind friend at church offered to crochet lovely pastel colored patches to strengthen Lulu’s worn parts and those have so far held true.
Earlier, as Eila was downstairs playing and I was in her room putting some of her things away, I caught sight of Lulu lying there in the middle of the bed and my heart caught in my throat. I realized that this was becoming the new normal. Once always cuddled in Eila’s arms, Lulu is left behind on a more frequent basis. Eila often says now she leaves her to keep her safe and preserve her from getting torn up and I know this is true. But… I also know that her leaving Lulu behind is inevitable much like how she is slowly easing out of her childhood. And Lulu is a tangible reminder of that.
I believe she will always have Lulu, whether she be in a box or on a shelf. I think that Lulu will continue on with her through adolescence, into adulthood, and may make it to be played with by Eila’s children someday. Even if she doesn’t, the thought of Lulu will, and is likely to spark many, many wonderful memories for my little girl. As I looked at Lulu laying there, I was acutely aware that in a day or two, Eila will be starting first grade and that my sweet firstborn girl is a going to be a grown woman much sooner than I can imagine. It was one of those cliche “blink-and-you-miss-it-moments” and it made me hug my daughter a little bit tighter that night as she clutched Lulu in their familiar embrace.