Josie was 2 years old when Owen was born. Two years and 10 days. When he was born, we wanted to make the transition from single child to big sister easy. On day number 2 of Owen's life, we were told he would be blind. Glaucoma - high intraoccular pressure - would damage his optic nerve and leave him without vision. On the third day of his life, Alecia and I took Owen to Boston to meet Dr. Walton. Josie stayed behind with Alecia's parents in Albany. Nice transition: here's your new brother. We're heading out. Good luck, kid.
Josie has always been resilient. She was fine, spending the day with my in-laws while we went to Boston to meet the doctor who would save our son's vision. And when traveling to Boston became a regular thing, she went along with no complaining or tantrums. Load up in the car, drive 3 hours, see the doctor, hit the aquarium, get a giant burrito, and head for home. She just rode along through it all.
Josie liked Sesame Street, and she adored Ernie, the little orange guy with the round head. She had a stuffed Ernie doll that would travel with us to Boston. On day trips, she would sit in her car seat as we scooted across Massachusettes, Ernie sitting in her lap.
And when we would spend the week in Boston for Owen's surgeries, Ernie would come along for the ride, hanging out in the hotel with Josie, offering her some comfort in a whirlwind of travel, doctors, and road food. She would sleep with that little guy tucked right up to her pillow. After surgery week, we would pack it all up and head home. All was good and easy with Josie.
Until Ernie got left behind.
Rule number one: Never leave a (stuffed) man behind. Never, ever. Ever.
After a week of hotel life, lobby food, surgery, crying, hoping, laughing, protecting, we headed home to Albany, arriving after dark to our little yellow house on West Lawrence Street. We pull in, unload, and start getting the kids up to bed. Diaper change, pajamas, teeth brushing. While getting things ready, Alecia was unpacking stuff when she realized there was a problem.
"We forgot Ernie." She said. "Crap."
Now, I consider myself a problem solver. I don't worry about problems too much. I just get into gear and make the best of situations.
Alecia and I formulate a plan: It's Thursday night, and the Toy Maker store is still open for another 45 minutes or so. I'll get Josie ready for bed, keeping her attention away from the missing Ernie doll. Alecia will head out to the toy store, and hopefully find a replacement Ernie so Josie has her companion to cuddle with while she sleeps. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Alecia heads out to the store, arriving just before closing time. She comes home.
No Ernie dolls were available, so she got the next best thing. She bought a Bert doll. A yellow, cone headed, unibrowed, wild haired Bert doll.
Our plan was working splendidly. Or failing miserably. You pick.
Josie is all ready for bed, in her PJ's and tucked in. We simply place Bert in bed next to her, like this is the doll she has been cuddling with all her life. Maybe she won't notice.
She looks at us with a "what the fuck is this face." Alecia explains that Ernie got left behind in the hotel in Boston, and his friend Bert was here to keep her company.
Now, Josie is pretty smart. She once questioned how Santa can actually deliver gifts to our house because the pitch of the roof was too great to safely land a sleigh. Seriously.
And she wasn't having anything to do with Bert. There were tears and consoling. It took some time, but we finally got Josie to settle down. Luckily, it was Thursday, and although we had just endured 4 days and nights in Boston, we were heading back on Saturday for a follow up appointment with Dr. Walton. We would simply stop at the hotel and see if they found our pal Ernie.
Saturday comes, and we swing by the Holiday Inn on Blossom Street and check with housekeeping. Guess what? They had Ernie. We got him back. He still sleeps next to Josie, some 9 years later.
Never leave a man behind.