Today is my youngest daughter Mary’s first day of school, and I can’t be with her. She’s 575 miles away in Champaign-Urbana, IL. Granted, she’s 24 years old and starting a PhD in comparative literature at the University of Illinois. She certainly doesn’t need me to braid her hair or find her shoes this morning.
My husband and I helped her move a couple weekends ago to a small house that she had rented sight unseen (except for some videos provided by the landlord). Of the myriad thoughts that could have entered my mind as we drove to help load up the U-Haul, the one that caused me the most concern was Moosey. I hadn’t thought of Moosey in months, maybe years.
Moosey is a small, very floppy moose that my mom gave to Mary when she was 1 year old. Since that time, Mary and Moosey have been inseparable. Moosey has attended preschool, waited patiently for Mary to come home from elementary school and provided comfort throughout high school. Moosey continued his silent, loyal companionship as they moved together to another state to attend college. Moosey has been left at a hotel, which led to panicked and hysterical calls to retrieve him. He was mailed back home in a box, after first being mailed to the wrong person. He has been to Mexico and Spain.
So, it’s no wonder that I thought about Moosey as we drove to Mary’s apartment to help her make the move to Illinois. I made the decision not to ask her about the toy, her old friend, but I knew I would silently be looking for him.
We loaded the boxes, bikes, books and miscellaneous accumulations of six years spent getting an undergraduate and a master’s degree in the same town. I was busy helping load, but I didn’t notice Moosey. I felt silly that I should care. How many stuffed toys last 23 years?
After everything was put on the truck and packed into the cars, we drove, at one point crossing the endless Mississippi in a blinding rain. As someone who attaches meaning to random events, I hoped this wasn’t some kind of sign.
We got to Urbana in the dark, greeted by Mary’s little white 1920s bungalow. It had been completely redone inside, and I knew that the next morning the windows would let in light all around. The neighborhood was an interesting mix of bungalows and larger homes lining sidewalks overhung with huge trees. The weekly farmers’ market was a block down and across the street. Perfect.
I breathed a little easier as we began to unload our boxes into the small house – the bike she bought in Tulsa, my old coffee maker from home, ceramic bowls and mugs that she had made in college and other bits and pieces of a young life from childhood up through young adulthood.
I stood in the middle of the living room surveying the mess. Then I saw him. Moosey was draped across the top of a box of books, his loose body ready to be picked up and hugged, a consistent reminder of past, present and future love.