Before leaving the house this morning, I went through my normal morning routine of slipping quietly into my daughter’s room to watch her sleep and leave a telltale lipstick kiss on her cheek. I’ve left my mark on her since I can remember; our silent way of making sure she knows I’ve got my priorities right despite my often hectic work schedule. A visible I love you to greet her when she awakens and looks in the mirror.
This morning’s goodbye routine was difficult in that I am leaving on an extended trip. Being away from her for almost two weeks will be gut-wrenching for both of us; no lipstick stain will remain on her cheek that long. Despite lots of hugs, cuddles and promises of phone calls, texts and Facetime; my big girl and I will miss each other immensely.
Her world is changing so quickly as she dives with zeal into the second decade of her life. New school, new friends, boys (!), and a whole ocean of new experiences are waiting to be whispered and shared each night. I have no doubt that her inner-most confidant is well-prepared and trustworthy. She has been her partner in crime, her source of entertainment, her sole means of comfort when all else fails; she is Soose. Phonetically titled by an early speller, writing a letter to her best pal; she is, indeed, a faithful friend for life.
Now a soothing pale grey, loved until her stuffing is no practically more; this cuddly, lovable and once pink puppy is a forever member of our family. A gift from a family friend when my daughter was only three months old, we had no idea the role this little bundle of fluff would play in our lives. She has been a constant companion from the word “go.” She has magical powers to soothe tummy aches, temper raging fevers, scare away monsters and bring laughter and unconditional love to any situation.
She has listened patiently to stories of the “mean Mommy” and epic disappointments from tender childhood lessons, silently offering a tender ear and endless compassion. A forever wingman, Soose has waited out the clock during time-outs and sleepless nights. Often airborne like a circus high wire artist, many a morning we awoke to the sight of the blur of a spinning pink puppy – tiny finger inside the tag and arm stretched up high – twirling her pal above a crib with giddy glee.
Once bright pink, sporting a fancy scarf and with clear eyes, the Soose of today wears her love-earned scars with pride. Her scarf has long been lost. Trips to the spa, far too numerous to count, have left her with a softer, paler physique. Some very secret trips under the knife have added some much-needed fluff here and there. And yes, we’ve had her eyes done. It is so hard to tell your BFF your innermost secrets when she cannot look you in the eye. But what no matter what we do to enhance Soose’s looks and try to sustain her longevity, she needs no help in her ability to bring comfort and teach real love.
Watching my now 5’4″ ten-year-old peacefully slumber, with her truest of true friends cradled safely in her arms, brings me more comfort than most anything. It reminded me of Margery Williams’ iconic Velveteen Rabbit and the exchange between the Skin Horse and the Rabbit in her children’s classic:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.” … “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or who have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
— The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Yes, watching my not-so-little baby growing up and learning life’s lessons of acceptance, disappointment and love is hard. Doing it from the road is near-impossible, at times. I am so thankful she knows she is loved and that she has the stability and security of our loving family to protect and guide her; including our very most precious, Soose.
This morning, I left lipstick on them both.