Matted, patchy in places, what is left of my fur makes me look mangy, I know. But I don’t mind. Even when some of them grimaced when they had to touch me. But you never did, you only ever smiled to see me, no matter what I looked like. Even through puffy eyes and cheeks running with tears, a corner of your mouth would turn up for me.
It might not seem like it to all of them, but I think we had a pretty good go of it together. Not so long in years, but many in grand adventures.
I cheered you on as you scaled the crib walls to freedom! There was a bruise, to be sure, but after that we could wander as we pleased, which was only the beginning. We had applesauce while Mommy and Daddy were sleeping, your famous mudpies during hot summer afternoons (I ate so many they stained my cheeks!), and there was the winter Daddy helped us build the biggest snow fort on the block!
The first week of school you brought me along to help you pick out which kids would make the best friends. That’s when we met Jessie, Sam, and Taylor. They kept you company at school while I waited for you to get home, tucked safely in bed with Jeff the Giraffe and Pocahontas. She was always your favorite Disney princess, but I never minded because you always took me on your adventures in the woods in the backyard. There we led hundreds of expeditions through fields of nettles, thick tangles of bushes (they gave us matching scars), and flooding streams.
We even led Daddy through the wilderness once, which was the best because he helped us build the Treefort. It was perfectly you, right down to front door which we painted with the same purple we used on your bedroom door. Mommy helped us with the map: down the hill from the backdoor, across “the Grand Canyon” (that’s what Mommy called it, Daddy called it a “healthy ditch”), 100 paces North (following your compass) and 50 West. Some of your friends at school had treehouses, but we needed more than a house to protect us from the giants and trolls. I don’t know what we would’ve done without the help of the centaurs and fairies, and you, of course. You were always my true hero.
The year after we built the Treefort, your friends started coming along on our adventures until the day you forgot me in the Treefort overnight. What a scary storm raged that night! The wind (no doubt blown in by the giants) was blowing harder than I could ever remember. I had never been so wet, cold, and alone. I had always cried with you when you were hurt or sad, but this was the first time I cried by myself. I never let one tear drop when you left me at home during school or when you started leaving me at home whenever your friends came for forest adventures.
But when I saw the look on your face, I knew…you didn’t even notice I was gone.
No apology or worry on your face, you just grabbed me and brought me inside, asking Mom to throw me in the dryer as you passed through the kitchen to your room. As it pulled half of the fur off my right leg, I knew you had outgrown me. Thump, thump, thumping, like the branches beating the Treefort throughout the storm, around and around. I shed one last tear and let the dryer blow it away.
I took a deep breath, now perched on the shelf across from your bed. I would still watch over you, I promised both of us, and one day you might need me again. As the time passed, I began to sleep more and more. Sometimes, I could be asleep for weeks at a time until a loud noise startled me. Mom yelling at you, you yelling back, you slamming your purple door…again…and again….and again.
I don’t know why your crying woke me that day. They were silent tears as you stared at me from across the room, your one strand of purple hair falling in your face. I reached out…and you picked me up. For the first time in a long time, you squeezed me like I was the only thing holding you together. I comforted you as best I could. Mom walked in, gathering clothes, your brush, and other things. She packed them neatly in your suitcase and kissed you on the head. The three of us closed that purple door together, holding tightly to each other and the memories left behind.
I have never felt so clean in my entire life once the nurses were done with me. I was returned to your side, and after that, I never left it. Doctors and nurses were always coming in to wake us up at night and there was the little girl that screamed for an hour straight one afternoon because they brought her the wrong color of jello. But there were good things, too. Jessie, Sam, and Taylor came to visit us and we spent all afternoon watching movies and laughing. The only other time we laughed so much was when Joe from down the hall made us dance in the middle of the cafeteria with him. “All you need is a string of pearls and you’ll be as pretty as my wife the night before I shipped out,” he said.
And he was right, you were beautiful. Even as your skin began to fade as it clung desperately to the hills and ditches that formed the range of your ribs. Even as your bright blue eyes began to gray…
Even now I can only see that vibrant girl full of so much potential as I take one last look. The ice on the tops of the trees glints in the light of the setting sun. Looking down from atop the hill, the city below transforms into a meadow of dandelions, full and ready to be scattered at the slightest breeze. Maybe that breeze will be you. After all, Dad used to tell us that the wind was just angels whistling to pass the time.
Mom closed one more purple door. I hug you tighter in the darkness and once again settle into sleep.