Searching for Bubba

Charlotte and Bubba recovering from heart surgery, March, 2007, Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago

Looking for Bubba became our own version of the t.v. shows Without a Trace and CSI: Chicago. After Philippe’s early morning trip on August 17, I continued to call the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium daily. I sent emails to the Lost & Found Department. I chose, however, not to leave a message with the answering service of the Museum Park Café Restaurant. A poor decision, it turns out.

As the week wore on, Charlotte “tried on” different best friends. From her collection of beloved stuffed animals, she napped with Nemo, Pitty Pat, Bubba’s Baby Brother, Mama Kitty, and some others. None of them quite fit the bill. She needed a certain size, a tag that is nice to rub while she sucks her thumb, and a unique ability to sniff. She finally adopted Bubba’s Baby Brother (a smaller, whiter version of the famed Bubba, also give to her by Bamma) though she continued to cuddle at least 4 other animals while sleeping, often piling them on top of each other.

About once a day she would ask me “Mama, why did I lose Bubba?” This has to have been the most heartbreaking question of all. Other questions included, “Where is Bubba?” “When will I get Bubba back?” Mostly, however, our little girl comforted us, telling us that she would be fine.

But, what did happen to Bubba? We can trace his whereabouts to Tuesday, August 19 and then the trail runs cold.

On August 20, I had a job interview on the south side of Chicago. On the way home, I passed the museum campus and decided to look once more. I stopped at the Museum Campus Café and spoke with Yvette, the manager. As I asked, “My daughter lost her lovey on Sunday morning. Has anyone given you a small brown…”, Yvette finished my sentence, “brown bear, about this big. Really dirty and smushed?”

“Yes!” I said, bursting into tears, “You have him?!”

“No,” Yvette responded sadly. “We did have him. Someone found him on the picnic table on Sunday around 3 p.m. We left him there all day, hoping his friends would come back. I could tell he was very well-loved and would be missed. So, I asked my employees to bring him in rather than throw him away. We kept him in the office on Monday [it rained all day that Monday]. On Tuesday, my workers tried to convince the groundskeeper to throw the bear out, but he remembered what I’d said. So, he put the bear back on the tables. We don’t know what happened to him after that.”

Poor Yvette. I burst into hysterical tears. I had come so close. I knew that he had been found and cared for, but then the trail stopped cold.

I tried the museum again. No luck.

Yvette called her groundskeeper to see if he had perhaps kept the bear another night or two. No luck.

I left a message for the Lakefront area Chicago Park District office. Heard back from them on August 25. No luck.

I tried not to feel horribly responsible, for losing Bubba to begin with, for not having left a message for the café earlier, and for not leaving our number with the café on Sunday. I tried not to rethink every decision and search strategy since The Loss. No luck.

I tried not to cry. No luck.

Philippe went back to the museum campus on Friday, August 21 and looked again. No luck.

We came so close. But then the trail went cold.

We ordered a new bear from the Internet. It came in and was all wrong so we kept looking.

I went to yoga class where our teacher suggested we breath in all that we wanted to add to our lives and breath out what we wanted to get rid of. I breathed out “guilt, guilt, guilt.” It worked!

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