Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Substitute Pig

If you were a person walking by a certain café in the valley on Friday night, you might have noticed an elegant navy blue Porsche 911 parked in front of the valet.  And if you bothered to look through the passenger side window of the navy blue Porsche 911, you might have noticed a little pink stuffed pig face down and jammed into the corner of the tan leather sport seat.  You might have wondered, as you wandered by on a balmy Friday, why such a sweet child’s toy was left, abandoned, in a sports car parked outside a café.  Or perhaps you were struck by the incongruity of that particular toy in that particular car.  You might have shaken your head in disgust, thinking the driver an irresponsible parent who thrust his or her small child into a racy sports car with no child seat.  What you wouldn’t have realized, what you couldn’t possibly have known, is that the abandoned little pig does not belong to a young child at all.  The abandoned little stuffed pig belongs to 16 year old Child One, and the driver of the sports car is me.

I rarely drive the car that is Sig Other’s prize possession.  But it was a holiday and Sig Other left early for a weekend in the desert with Child Two.  Child One and I had various responsibilities that prevented us from an early escape so we decided to meet them there.  S.O. packed up my mommy-car with bikes and gear and headed out with the boy to prepare for his big bike-riding weekend.  Child One and I followed in the evening, but stopped to grab a bite in the hope that traffic would subside.  And truly I liked the idea of a chic ride in the sporty speedster, my teenager beside me and LV luggage in the back.

We were all packed up and tucked into the compact cabin of the little sports car before I had a chance to glance over and see Child One stuffing the little pink pig into her bag.  “What’s that?” I asked.  “Piggy,” she replied.  “He still comes with?” I asked.  “Of course,” she said, “but Blue Bunny stays home these days.”  This last was delivered as a matter of fact.  Blue Bunny isn’t actually blue at all.  BB is a little white stuffed rabbit in a blue outfit.  And BB has been with Child One since infancy and resides on Child One’s massive king sized bed covered in stuffed animals and pink pillows. 

Child One hangs on to the threads of her girlhood in ways like this.  Blue Bunny and Peej have travelled with her since she was tiny.  This pig, this little pink stuffed pig on this particular trip, is actually a stand-in for the real pig (“Peej”), who is now old and tattered and too precious to leave the area code.  Blue Bunny stays home now too.  Ever since the “incident” in which she was lost in the fine pressed sheets of Claridge’s Hotel and did not surface until weeks later when some lovely woman in housekeeping rescued her and sent her home via airmail.  Bunny was laundered and no worse for wear.  But that was her last overseas journey and she now stays safe at home, replaced by a substitute pig on vacation so as not to tempt fate.

I tease Child One about traveling with her little pig.  I tease her often about how firmly she holds on to her childhood and yet I’m hanging on right there with her.  And I think about life 18 months from now, when she and Ex-Wife and Sig Other and I will be standing in some college dorm hallway about to open the door to a tiny, overcrowded room that will be her home away from homes for the next phase of her life.  Ex-Wife and I will cry and fuss and Sig Other will keep his sunglasses on and pretend like he’s not bawling harder than either of us.  And I imagine the moment we open the door, enter her new room and meet her new roommates who will become immediately familiar with Blue Bunny and Peej and the little substitute piggy and all of the lovely quirks that follow Child One around and make her so special and lovable and amazing.  I wonder if she’ll consider leaving Substitute Pig with me?

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