The littlest hobo of toy town

We’ve lost Leo.

He was the first toy that we ever bought for our daughter, Gigi. She’s cuddled him, carried him around, fed him biscuits, dressed him up in her favourite princess outfit, introduced him to strangers, been photographed with him endlessly, and slept with him every day since she was born, twiddling his stupidly long ears as she drifted off. He’s a sad looking character, bought in the second hand shop in Andratx for the paltry sum of a euro back when I was heavily pregnant and we were shopping for cheap baby stuff to get ready for the big event. People couldn’t really decide what he was: a teddy with unnaturally elongated ears, a rabbit? No, he’s her perrito. And he’s gone. Muneça down, missing in action.

I’m devastated. I still have my first toy, a (now) three legged lamb, missing vital parts of its anatomy, and fur, and I always imagined Gidg would keep Leo forever as a reminder of her childhood.

My husband, Ollie, and I have recreated the scene: we last remember Gigi having him at the Port Andratx ice cream parlour, where Gigi always, without fail, has the strawberry sorbet because it looks the most exciting, and then makes sure that she also gets to eat everyone else’s icecreams as well. We’ve turned out both cars in the hope he’ll be lurking underneath. We’ve postered the Port, with a heartrending image of the odd little stuffed dog. Nothing. I find myself peering into building sites, and dark corners of car parks hoping to catch a glimpse of a long brown ear or his dirty beige fur. (I can’t tell you how embarassing it is when your child’s favourite toy is constantly the colour of an unwashed floor, or the intrigues and trickeries it took to magic him away from her for long enough to get him in and out of the washing machine for a quick spruce up).

If there were only a Missing Stuffed Toy helpline we could leave our details with; perhaps he’s tried to contact us and can’t get home.

In the course of beginning to write this first post in ages I did what I always do: find a hundred other things to do first whilst trying to conjure up the right words to use. In this case it involved completely reorganising the upstairs of my house. I searched high and low for any sign of Leo. Every cupboard was emptied, every piece of furniture moved, so I have contributed to the major jigsaw and plastic toy mess that now awaits me for the next time I have to write something.

But the displacement activity (a.k.a. completely unecessary but very satisfying house doctoring) served to remind me that I shouldn’t own white soft furnishings. You know how it goes, ‘It’s sunny, we live in Mallorca, let’s throw some white rugs on the floor and white covers on the sofas to really let the house look light and funky’. But less than a day later, they’re all that greyish colour and are begging to go in the wash.

I don’t know why I bothered really.

The reality is that we have two cats, two dogs, an (almost) three year old, and live in a dust bowl: S’Arracò – drive through it, blink and you’ve missed it. But live in it, and it lives with you, in your house, great dustpan fulls of it. There’s more of S’Arracó in my house than there is outside. It is a Mallorquin housewife’s nightmare, and is why all of my neighbours religiously sweep the steps and pavements outside of their homes every morning whilst I am running to my car with a child loudly disagreeing with me under one arm, wishing I had one of those politely obedient Spanish children which does what she is told and is never late for nursery.

The thing is Gidg hasn’t really noticed Leo’s gone, except when she sees a photograph of him, and then longingly repeats his name, which is heartbreaking. She has a stable of underused teddies, dolls, giraffes, monkeys, she’s even got a polar bear; and they are now all getting their share of affection and taking turns at being her bedtime companion as we read yet again The Tiger Who Came To Tea´. Perhaps it’s just as well that Leo is no longer around, as Gigi is due to start at the local school next week, and under no circumstances are the children allowed to bring sentimental objects of fake fur with them.

But I haven’t quite relinquished the search, I’m not ready to let go of her first toy, I’ve even scoured the back garden, as one of our dogs has taken to stealing teddies and running away to hide and devour them. I’ve looked under the spikiest of bushes, and heaviest of building materials, which are biding their time in the garden for that great day when we have the money, time and energy to start the home improvements.

I guess it’s our first real rite of passage as a family, yes I know that cutting teeth, learning to walk, the first words, are all major moments in a child’s development. But learning the lesson to let go, and that, especially on the island of Mallorca where people come and go, arrive and leave through the seasons, that sometimes friends move on, is a difficult one, whatever age you are.

I’ve comforted myself with the idea that Leo is the stuffed toy equivalent of the dog from the 80’s TV show ‘The Littlest Hobo’, this friendly creature would come and stay for a while, sort out a family and its problems and then move on to his next good deed.

So whereever you are Leo, good luck, keep your ears clean, and thank you for the memories.

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