|Photo credit to E|
If I counted the hours in the past several months I've spent searching for Lightning McQueen, the number would be staggering.
Actually, I'm deliberately not counting the hours, because I know deep down that the number would trump everything. It would be more hours than I've run, or slept, or talked on the telephone. More hours than I've showered, even.
It would be demoralizing. And embarrassing.
As of 8:17pm tonight, I'm about to clock several more.
N's security object didn't used to be a two-inch smirking metal race car with giant eyeballs, in case you were wondering. It used to be a stuffed Dora the Explorer doll with yarn hair and a removable backpack. He chose Dora himself at 14 months, almost the exact age E was when she fell in love with Elmo in the shoe department of Nordstrom. Dora was crammed into a display of Beanie Babies in the kid section of Barnes & Noble. N commando-crawled his way over to her (damn Barnes & Noble and their shoe-level display bins), grabbed her in his arms, and refused to let go. We went in for story hour and came out with a lovey.
Dora hasn't been totally forsaken. She still sleeps in N's crib every night. But Lightning McQueen...a totally random $5 toy store pick months before he'd even seen the movie...is now N's BFF. He rides around in N's pocket all day, every day (consequently, don't even think about dressing N in anything but "pocket pants." He'll hurt you. No pocket for Lightning, no dice.) Lightning goes to the grocery store and the library and the beach. He's everywhere.
Except when he's nowhere. Which pretty much happens every day.
I'm not sure if it's because she came with a map and a compass, or if maybe she's just better at sticking with the crowd, but Dora almost never got lost. Lightning, though, is a totally different story. Which I why I spent a disproportionate amount of time desperately seeking Lightning McQueen. And why, if I don't find him IN THE NEXT 30 SECONDS, N and I are both going to need major therapy.
I bet you're wondering why I don't have a backup. Why I, the mother who spent months obsessively breaking in a backup Elmo doll and a backup giraffe lovey haven't yet managed something so basic, so Motherhood 101 ridiculous, as purchasing an emergency Lightning McQueen.
Dear Jerks at Mattel,
I know you think you're clever and all, manufacturing dozens and dozens of every-so-slightly different die cast Lightning McQueen toy race cars to trick every kid under the age of 9 into thinking that they ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE every single version of the cocky young Disney race car known to man. Radiator Springs Lightning. Piston Cup Lightning. Smooth Cruisin' Lightning. But here's the thing: you've made it impossible for me to do my motherly duty and provide my two-and-half-year-old Lightning McQueen-obsessed son with an emergency backup of his favorite toy. Because, like snowflakes and sunsets and toddler meltdowns when their race car/transitional object goes missing...NO TWO ARE EXACTLY ALIKE.
Lightning has had some seriously close calls before. On the 4th of July at Jan and Uncle's house, sometime around 9pm (right before the fireworks were about to start) we realized he was missing. It was pitch black. We used flashlights and searchlights and even employed Pilot the Wonder Dog to do some search-and-rescue sniffing...but it looked like he was really gone. N watched the fireworks from my lap, big sad eyes turned toward the sky, no doubt unable to fully enjoy his very first 4th of July celebration without his best red race car friend safely in his pocket.
But just after the fireworks ended, I found him. I gave the lawn one last search and there he was, buried under a patch of grass, smirking at me like always. It was like finding a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk. No, better. Like finding a winning Powerball ticket. In your own pocket. The look of joy on N's face was enough to make every hour of searching worth the effort ten times over.
Tonight, though, he's really, really gone.
I'm kind of freaking out.
I've looked under the couch. I've lifted every cushion and every corner of the living room rug. I looked in E's room, and my room, and the kitchen. I looked in J's laptop bag and my purse and under my desk, where N likes to hang out when I'm working. I've looked in the refrigerator (sometimes Lightning "needs some snack," as N likes to say.) I looked in the bathtub and in the hall closet and even (shudder) in the toilet.
The goddamned thing is missing.
I called my babysitter.
"Sorry to bother you so late, but...have you seen Lightning?"
"You checked under the couch?"
"No, you really checked, right? Like you move it and everything?"
"Pocket of his pants?"
"What about E's room?"
"Sorry, Jenny. I check in the morning."
I call J's cell.
"Lightning's missing. I don't know what to do."
"That's a shame," he replied solemnly.
"No, I mean it. This time he's like, legit missing."
"So he's missing. Big deal. He'll forget about him by the morning."
I'm not actually sure why I called J in the first place, actually. Clearly this is one mission I'm going to have to fly solo on.
Because here's the thing: Lightning McQueen--smirking face, giant eyeballs, chipped red paint and all--is N's security object. His best friend. His one true thing. And what kind of mother am I if I can't perform the one simple act of finding him when he's lost? I'm already failing him by working too much and trying to hard to balance everything. I'm already giving him less time and attention than his sister got at the same age. Even his one book, one kiss bedtime routine is stingy--practically nonexistent compared to the song-and-books-and-back rub-and-monster-spray production E can't possibly sleep without.
If I can't deliver Lightning McQueen, am I really worthy of being N's mom at all?
Please excuse me. If you need me, I'll be checking the gutters and the washing machine and the gardens shed. And then I'll be online, Googling the location of the nearest all night Target.
Because if I do nothing else right, if I screw up every single other thing I try to do this week, I'm NOT letting sweet Baby N wake up tomorrow morning without Lightning McQueen.
Take that, motherhood.