When I was three, my parents stuffed my baby sister and I and all our gear into the car and drove two solid days to Idaho to visit cousins. (I know, weren’t they brave??)
Mom remembers that trip as the one when my sister screamed her little baby voice hoarse for hundreds of miles. Happily, I have no memory of that.
I do, however remember the farmhouse standing in the middle of green, with gabled windows in the second floor and a damp basement where my aunt kept crates of cold Idaho potatoes.
I also remember the panic of waking to find that Dumbo—my small stuffed yellow elephant—had vanished.
The older cousins were gobbling breakfast as quickly as possible because the yard, which only the day before had been filled with golden fall sunshine, was now blindingly white with new snow. In the giddy rush for mittens and boots and coats, only Mommy heard my frantic wail.
She knelt down to my tearful face. “Where did you last see him, sweety?”
Suddenly, my stomach sunk to my slippers like lead, because I knew. I had tucked him under my arm when I climbed to the top of the play tower in the yard. To a tiny person, the view from that height was thrilling. I couldn’t remember tucking him under my arm again on the way down.
He was must still be there, cold and wet under the snow.
We pulled on pants and socks and boots and puffy coats and set out to rescue Dumbo. The snow was probably only four or six inches deep, but I remember struggling mightily to make headway on my stubby legs. I was bundled like a sausage, waddling awkwardly through drifts up to my knees, thinking to myself that the tower was much farther away today than it was yesterday.
My mother is a tiny woman, but on that day she seemed like an Amazonian warrior, striding easily through the white expanse. She reached the tower, scaled the ladder, and soon turned to me with a smile, holding a very wet and snowy elephant in her mitten.
He was never quite as yellow after that day, and his squeaker had a different tone, but he was mine and he was safe.
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