"Sadie gave me all these things!" the child shouted with glee, clutching her grocery bag of booty.
"Yep, Sadie gave her all those things," the play date's dad said with a little sigh that I know meant "I'll be picking these things up at my house now..."
I sat down on the grass next to my husband and watched our friends drive away and then I congratulated him for clearing our house of a bit of the clutter.
"Yep," he said. "She even gave away Squirrel."
"You let her give away Squirrel?" I barked.
"I asked her twice if she was sure about it and she said she was," he replied.
"I can't believe you gave away Squirrel," I hissed. I launched myself off the grass and stomped inside, mumbling.
A bit of back story: Nearly three years ago, when Sadie was brand new to pre-school, she formed a tight relationship with this little stuffed squirrel in her classroom. Every day we would find her making up songs for the squirrel and carrying on intimate conversations with the squirrel and one day, with the assistance of our babysitter, Sadie liberated Squirrel from the confines of the classroom and brought him home to live a pampered life. Squirrel has attended zillions of tea parties, worn a tutu to ballet class and donned striped pajamas for bed. For Halloween last year, at Sadie's behest, I made him a witch costume. For no reason at all I made him a kimono out of some silk pajamas headed for the hand-me-down pile. Sadie was attached to the little guy and (not to sound too squirrelly) so was I.
So I was mad at my husband. Mad at him for failing to understand the importance of this little toy. Of course instead of bringing up my issues in a calm and rational manner, I sped through dinner preparation and gave terse directions for table setting and hand washing.
My husband (bless him and bless him again) was patient. "I thought it was a good thing," he said. "I knew Squirrel was a big deal and I thought it was very kind of her to give him to a friend."
I opened my mouth to say something, but suddenly all I could do was cry. In between sobs, I tried to explain. "It's not Squirrel," I said.
"I didn't really think it was," my husband said, wrapping his arms around me.
I cried for the fact that my daughter was growing. I cried because I miss that funny little girl with the nonsensical language and the round baby belly. I cried because she's almost in kindergarten and because she's sometimes mean as a snake. I cried so much, my husband offered to drive over to our friends' house and bring Squirrel back.
"It's okay," I said. "Things change." I figured if at four she knew how to let go, then at forty, I should know how to do it, too.
The next day, our babysitter, A., arrived and as usual I gave her the schedule updates and kid mood forecast for the day. "Also," I said, "Sadie gave Squirrel away."
A's eyes filled with tears. "Our squirrel?"
I turned to my husband. "I'm bringing him home," I said.
Squirrel is back. And my daughter is delighted. "How was your sleepover?" she asked. She packed him into a basket and took him to a birthday party. She made him a bed in my husband's slipper. She is not headed to college. She is still small and silly and thinks nothing of wearing a tiara to the grocery store. She is four going on five and we have all the time in the world.