Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A tribute to Special

The name “Special” has two connotations in our home… and indeed, both must be capitalized for they are both names. “Special” is what we call Ethan. Mike started calling him, “My special” a long time ago and before you knew it, Special became a nickname. Ethan’s very special blanket is also known as Special. Special has his own personality and our lives would not be the same without him. He has played an integral role in our home since before Ethan was born.

When I was pregnant with Ethan, my friend Michelle Johnson organized a baby shower for me at her home. We had chosen a theme for his nursery that was called “Blue Jean Teddy Bear”. We had the crib bedding and many other accessories that go along with the theme. A crib-sized blanket came with the set. But lo and behold, Michelle made me a blanket in the same theme, except hers was much, much nicer and much softer. I fell in love with the backing she used for it. When Ethan was born, that blanket became his “security blanket” and he slept with it nearly every night. When he was a few months old, he began having “finger time”. He would (and still does) suck on the index finger of his left hand and he sucks on it upside down. He quickly learned how to have finger time while at the same time snuggling his blanket between his hands. Then he’d take a corner of the blanket and flick his nose with it rhythmically while sucking on his finger. As he got older, he’d even “share” with us, leaning over and flicking our noses with the corner of his blanket.

As time went on, we would always say, “Ethan, where is your special blanket?” And soon, it became known as just plain “Special”. Special has been everywhere with us. Special went to Hawaii when Ethan was just a year old. Special has been on ferry rides, to Canada, to Utah, and down to Oregon. In fact, we almost had a tragic loss in Oregon last year. Ethan’s only responsibility as we were checking out was to keep an eye on special. As we piled into the car and got ready to leave, he let out a yell and said, “WAIT! I can’t find Special!” We looked and looked around the car but he was nowhere to be found. As we continued to look, huge crocodile tears filled Ethan’s eyes and began spilling down his cheeks. Quiet crying soon turned into mild hysteria at the thought of leaving Oregon without him. As any good mother would do, I trekked back into the hotel and offered my plight to the concierge at the desk. She kind of laughed and said, “I have a little boy. I understand.” I told her that I’d sooner wait all day to find it than to endure a trip home without Special. The housekeeping staff found it and brought it down to me and all was made right in Ethan’s world.

There have been times when Ethan has “lost” Special in our home. He’s hidden it for safe keeping and then forgotten where it was hiding. This is always a challenge because he will not go to sleep without it. I think Ethan would stay up all night if had to. Recently, he and Mike and Evan went out to Port Orchard to visit with Mary and Jay’s family. They decided to stay the night and he hadn’t taken Special with him. There were lots of tears shed over that. I believe it was his first official sleep without Special and although he was sad, he handled it well. I called him and told him I’d keep Special safe and warm and he was happy with that arrangement. This coming May, we are taking a trip to Utah and I know that Special will come along. What would a trip be without him?

One of my favorite stories from my childhood is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. I began reading the story to Ethan and made the observation that the Rabbit could very easily be compared to Special. Here are some parts of the story that really warmed my heart.

Here’s to Special… who is very REAL to us!

…"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"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."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or 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."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him…

That night, and for many nights after, the Velveteen Rabbit slept in the Boy's bed. At first he found it rather uncomfortable, for the Boy hugged him very tight, and sometimes he rolled over on him, and sometimes he pushed him so far under the pillow that the Rabbit could scarcely breathe. And he missed, too, those long moonlight hours in the nursery, when all the house was silent, and his talks with the Skin Horse. But very soon he grew to like it, for the Boy used to talk to him, and made nice tunnels for him under the bedclothes that he said were like the burrows the real rabbits lived in. And they had splendid games together, in whispers, when Nana had gone away to her supper and left the night-light burning on the mantelpiece. And when the Boy dropped off to sleep, the Rabbit would snuggle down close under his little warm chin and dream, with the Boy's hands clasped close round him all night long.

And so time went on, and the little Rabbit was very happy–so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier and shabbier, and his tail becoming unsewn, and all the pink rubbed off his nose where the Boy had kissed him.

Spring came, and they had long days in the garden, for wherever the Boy went the Rabbit went too. He had rides in the wheelbarrow, and picnics on the grass, and lovely fairy huts built for him under the raspberry canes behind the flower border. And once, when the Boy was called away suddenly to go out to tea, the Rabbit was left out on the lawn until long after dusk, and Nana had to come and look for him with the candle because the Boy couldn't go to sleep unless he was there. He was wet through with the dew and quite earthy from diving into the burrows the Boy had made for him in the flower bed, and Nana grumbled as she rubbed him off with a corner of her apron.

"You must have your old Bunny!" she said. "Fancy all that fuss for a toy!"

The Boy sat up in bed and stretched out his hands.

"Give me my Bunny!" he said. "You mustn't say that. He isn't a toy. He's REAL!"

When the little Rabbit heard that he was happy, for he knew that what the Skin Horse had said was true at last. The nursery magic had happened to him, and he was a toy no longer. He was Real. The Boy himself had said it…

Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn't matter.

Here are a few more pictures of Special through the years:

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