"[A] lot of my best friends are atheists. It's lukewarm believers that drive me out of the church."
Like a Song: Treasure (Whatever Happened To Pete The Chop)
September 19, 2012
[Ed. note: This is the 71st in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]
Graciedog holds a very special place in my 5-year-old son's heart. She is the first stuffed animal my son became attached to. She went everywhere with him -- doctors' visits, hospital overnights, Nana's house, first day at school, speech therapy, grocery stores ... you name it, she went everywhere. She has a particular smell and a particular look of being well loved. She became my son's security, protector, and most of all, best friend. He'd read books to her, tell her about his day, build Lego doghouses and more. The love he has for Graciedog knows no bounds.
I like to smile but I like to mostly stay with you
It should come as no surprise that she had to go with him when we did our big family reunion last month in France. After much negotiating, my son successfully convinced us that Graciedog needed to travel with us. After all, she is a member of the family. Like always, she went everywhere and spent most of her time being held by our son. As many parents can relate, every family routine involved this special lovey in some form. It became almost ritualistic at bedtime with Graciedog, nighttime reading, chocolate milk, brushing teeth and night-night song. This was our routine for as long as our son could remember. A peaceful night's sleep was almost guaranteed as long as he had Graciedog curled up in his arms.
Sing it, sing my, sing my song
Our son was over-the-moon excited when we surprised him and his sister with a trip to Disneyland Paris. How could you be visiting the Paris area and not take a daytrip there? Both of our children are at that age where everything is magical, where Mickey and his pals are real, and where those initial childhood memories will hopefully last for decades to come. Throughout our visit in the park, Graciedog would have fun on the rides, and when not needed stayed in my purse for safekeeping. As the day progressed and our son was getting more tired, he kept asking for his doggie. So, she came out during dinner and got carried around as we shopped in one of the gift shops in Tomorrowland.
I like good times but I can feel it's going wrong
After a full day in the park, we packed up everything in the car and drove back to the farmhouse we were staying in. Our son was so excited about the Star Tours souvenirs he got to pick out that he completely forgot about Graciedog. Unfortunately, among all the details of the day, we all did too. The next morning we searched all our bags and the car but came up empty. We called Disneyland Paris' Lost and Found department almost hourly the day after to see if she had turned up. "No, but keep trying," we were told. We tried not to worry our son about it, but he felt something just wasn't right. Out of the blue, he would ask us if we had called Lost and Found, and we'd have to disappointingly tell him that there wasn't any news yet. For a full week, we were in this pattern of calling in the morning and at the end of the day.
It broke my heart that out of all the details of the day, I couldn't keep an eye on the one possession that meant more to him than anything. We reviewed our photographs to try to put a timestamp on when she became lost. I could see the scenario clear as day as it replayed in my mind on constant loop: He was in the Constellations gift shop playing with the Star Wars lightsabers. He had one in each hand as he battled his cousin. He couldn't have been holding onto Graciedog if he had a lightsaber in each hand. He must have dropped her in the display case where the lightsabers were. After much pleading, we were able to speak directly with the gift shop, but were told that they didn't find her. So, I did what any guilt-stricken mother would do: I drove 2.5 hours back to Disneyland Paris and convinced the gate attendant to let me visit Lost and Found personally. I brought a photograph of Graciedog with me as I felt we weren't adequately describing her over the phone. Plus, it didn’t help that I can't speak French. I was informed that she definitely was not at Lost and Found. Having no success, I paid for a full-price park admission and went to each attraction and personally asked if she could be in their lost and found box in their office. Each Disney cast member I spoke with could see the heaviness of my heart and the pain in my eyes when they came back with an "I'm sorry. We don't have a dog like that."
Two hours later, I left the park empty-handed. I had another 2.5 hours on the drive home to come up with a way to explain to our son that she was gone forever. How can you tell a 5-year-old that the one lovey that means the world to him is gone? My husband and I had to explain to him that we did everything we possibly could -- and more -- but Graciedog was not coming home with us. We told him that hopefully she is with another little girl or little boy, and she will explain to them how awesome and loving her previous owner was. I don't even want to think she was thrown out by a park employee.
If I could swim, I'd swim in circles
A few days later, our son found another stuffed doggie that wasn't quite like Graciedog at a flea market in the Normandy region. He named the doggie "hangon Graciedog." A day later he renamed her "holdon Graciedog," and finally settled on just "Graciedog." Luckily, we prepared for a time when he might have lost Graciedog as we had an exact replica of the doggie back at home in the States. When we got home from our trip, he reminded us that it's not Graciedog because it doesn't smell like the original or have the same rips and patch-ups as the original, but he embraced it with such deep affection that it's now his new all-time favorite lovey. From time to time, he will casually mention how he misses Graciedog and hopes her new owners are taking good care of her. He still believes in his heart-of-hearts that he'll be reunited with her someday. That still breaks my heart as I know it’ll never be. For my little chop's treasure, I will be forever wondering what happened to it.