Charlotte's Journey Home

Just a Regular Kid, Sort Of


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We Pause for a Moment (of silence, from our sponsor? You pick)

Caveat: This blog is usually about Charlotte. I try to keep my emotional interventions to a minimum, saving my rants about our various situations for my journal. Of course, I do rave here, as you know. So I hope you’ll humor me this one time as I vent the words that have kept me awake since Philippe left an hour ago, in thunder and lightening, to go look for our beloved bear.

How we slept last night, the night we lost Bubba. Charlotte conked out at 7:30, peacefully hugging Bubba’s Baby Brother, Nemo, and Mama Kitty. Philippe and I tossed and turned, he devastated by the loss of a bear that has such symbolism for our family; and I was racked with guilt.

Here’s the thing*: Charlotte handed her most beloved possession to me, her mother. She entrusted me with her best friend. She gave me the one bear that I knew would need rescue in case of an emergency exit (from anywhere). I somehow managed to not secure him in the backpack. He fell out (or never made it in). This is squarely my fault.

Here’s the other thing: When is enough enough? Her heart, her feeding tube, her reflux and constant vomiting, her helmet, 3 years of physical and speech therapy, her eyes, her ears, the school’s recent concerns about potential development and socialization challenges. So many other daily struggles that we don’t share on the blog, our grown up struggles. All these we have born with whatever dignity, strength, and grace we could. I realize, and am grateful, daily that we have fewer troubles than many. That Charlotte’s relative health and her exuberant happiness are blessings and our daily reward. But, why did we have lose her Bubba? When is enough enough?

And now, I have images of a poor lost bear, tumbling along the rivulets caused by this morning’s thunderstorm, scared and alone. I see him being tossed into the lake by some callous person. I have waking nightmares about him getting run over by a car, having his eyes pulled out by a nesting bird, his stuffing flowing into the dirt.

Philippe left the house at 6:00 a.m. to go look for him again. In the violent thunderstorm.

Charlotte doesn’t blame me. Yet. I can only imagine how this plays out in adolescence. Philippe doesn’t blame me. But, I blame myself. And, Bubba, if we could find him, wouldn’t blame me. He’d look up with his crooked, smashed smile, streaked with washed out pink marker, give me a sniff, and then let me off the hook.

I wish it were so easy.

*With apologies and great admiration to Lisa Graff’s The Thing About Georgie.


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For the Love of Bubba

Bubba at his proudest, sitting at the foot of Charlotte’s crib in NICU 204, helping her recover shortly after her first heart surgery.
We lost Bubba today. Philippe and I have feared this day for a long time, ever since Charlotte definitively chose Bubba as her favorite friend. First it was Mr. Mouse, then Duckie, then Bubba. Bubba is the beariest bear, the best friend, the one who is always there. And then, somewhere between our parking space and the entrance to the pirate exhibit at the Field Museum, Bubba fell out of our backpack.
Today, we told Charlotte that no bears could come into the Field Museum because Sue the T-Rex is afraid of bears. I told her there was a sign. Smarty-pants said, “Mommy, I didn’t see that sign when I was there with camp.” So, we let her take him in the car, with the intention of leaving him the car (that’s what we usually do). She was kind of whiny, so I let her put him in the backpack. What happened after that is a blur.

We retraced our steps, checked lost and found at three museums three times. We looked under cars, in trash cans, and in trees.

Here’s the thing, if you found a clearly well-loved, dirty, lost-most-of-his-stuffing bear, what would you do with it? I’d set it carefully in a visible spot near where I found it, or I’d take it to a nearby store/museum/restaurant for lost and found collection. Other people, it seems, must think “finder’s keepers.”

Charlotte was hysterical for about 30 minutes. Then off and on sad for another hour. Now she seems rather resigned to the loss. She’s hoping Daddy can find her a twin bear to name Bubba and she’s trying to nap with Bubba’s Baby Brother and her other dozens of friends.

Philippe and I are, on the other hand, beside ourselves. I’m ready to cry.

Why, you ask? It’s just a teddy bear, right? Sort of.

Bubba helped Charlotte not have a meltdown when our trip to NJ took nearly 12 hours.

Bubba held a gift card given to us by my mother when Charlotte was three weeks old. He proudly sat at the end of her hospital bed for the next month. Then he took up residence in her crib.
Once she adopted him as her favorite, he slept close to her head. Bubba survived reflux with the rest of us, only it was much harder to keep him clean when he was in the line of fire. Over time, after several trips through the washing machine, and an accidental fall into the bathtub, we gave up trying to clean him. Lovely golden Bubba became more sandy-colored, stained, even striped with the occasional magic marker. When Charlotte’s GI doc told us this past week that we could put him in a bag and wash him on the delicate cycle, Philippe and I looked at each other and smiled. We’ve done that. Maybe a dozen times. We were sure one more time would be the end of Bubba.
Once Bubba was the clear favorite of Charlotte’s menagerie of friends, I made a special trip to Babies-R-Us to get a back-up Bubba. By that time, the design of their gift card bears had already changed. So, no back-up Bubba.

Charlotte’s teachers all knew to check her backpack at the end of the day to make sure he came home with her. The new Executive Director at our synagogue met us by asking to meet Bubba.

When I couldn’t convince Charlotte to leave Bubba at home for field trips at camp this summer, I made him a collar with an id tag. He came home every trip, safe and sound.

Bubba helping Charlotte nap at Ton Ton Ricky and Tante Andre’s home in Belgium

Charlotte usually carried Bubba upside down, rubbing his tag while she sucked her thumb. He sniffed her boo-boos to help them feel better. He went to every doctor appointment to help her be brave. Bubba recovered Charlotte from open-heart surgery when she was 21 months old, from ear tube surgery last month, and from every scrape and bruise in between. Sometimes he’s the only thing that can cheer her up when she’s sad or tired.

What I’ve learned today is that Charlotte is quite brave without Bubba, too. She’s bravely trying to nap; announcing that if Daddy can find a twin, she’ll name him Bubba; and telling me that she loves all her stuffed friends and that Nemo is also her best friend.

Sooner or later Charlotte will realize that he’s really gone. Gone forever. Her dad and I are sad because he is a symbol of all she has survived, all she has conquered, how far she’s come, and how strong she is. Charlotte will be devastated by this first permanent loss of a best friend and treasured bear. We’ll all never be the same.

Requiem for Bubba*
Bubba the Bear Ba Ba
Bubba the Bear Ba Ba
Bubba the Bear was always there, was quite a bear.
We had a bear named Bubba
He was like no other
We loved him like a brother
We’ll miss
Bubba the Bear Ba Ba.

*To the tune of the Addam’s Family theme song. Don’t ask.

The “Bear Facts”:

  • Charlotte has more than a dozen bears. At last count I think the bear-ventory was 26. (We’ll get back to you on that.)
  • The name “Bubba” derives from Baby Charlotte’s earlierst attempt to say “bear.” To us it sounded like “buh buh.” Her friend has a bear named Ba-Ba. Same derivation.
  • Bubba traveled to Virginia; New Jersey; New York; Boston;, Newton MA;, Paris, France; all over Belgium. But Bubba got lost at home in Chicago.
  • Bubba survived vicsious 😉 attacks by Baxter the dog and other predators.
  • Bubba was vomited on more than even Mommy. He didn’t care.
  • Bubba has a purple imaginary brother. He’s not lost.
  • Mommy copes with the loss of Bubba by blogging.
  • Daddy copes with the loss of Bubba by going to Babies-R-Us. No luck. Now he’s online trying to track down the company that makes BRU’s private label animals.
  • Charlotte is trying to nap, as she promised us. But she is not asleep. Could be the rain. But, probably the bear.
  • I’m so sad that I’ve just left the laundry on the line in the pouring rain.