She dug in the toy box daily. By dug, of course, I mean emptied. Empty. Refill. Empty. Refill. Hundreds of times a day. One morning, she found a long forgotten Burger King toy. A small, maybe four inches tall, green Care Bear with a hook attached for clipping to your backpack. Oh how she loved that Care Bear. She carried it everywhere! To the potty. To the dinner table. WalMart. The park. If she went, so did the bear. Somewhere along the way, the bear became affectionately known as Squishy Bear. Everyone thought it was cute. "Oh look! She has a friend!". They would tell her how adorable she was. She would smile and then run off to twirl Squishy Bear around her finger for hours.
Still living relatively close to "home", we traveled often to visit with our extended family. Obviously, Squishy Bear went along for the ride. Lo and behold, one Sunday afternoon Squishy Bear was left behind. Panic ensued. We couldn't turn around. We knew we would be returning soon so we reasoned with her. "Mommy will find Squishy Bear next weekend. Nana will keep him safe and sound,". No luck. "Mommy will take you to Toys R Us and buy you a REAL Care Bear,". No luck. "If you just stop SCREAMING, I'll take you to McDonald's and we can see what toys they have!". No luck.
Frantically, I scoured EBay. Turns out, the collectors of these items are damned proud of their Happy Meal Toys. Money was tight. My husband was a young airman. We had three children. Two cars. Child support had just been raised (again). It wouldn't have mattered if I had to beg for food, I had to pay to the $34 dollars for four more Squishy Bears. It wasn't an option. If the cable went out, OH WELL! It was worth ending the week of screaming. I paid for overnight shipping. We were at a critical point. Near catastrophic tempers were flaring. And they weren't just hers.
The Squishy Bears arrived. FINALLY. The clouds opened up and angels sang. Flowers bloomed. Suddenly all was right in the world. Having learned quickly from mistakes, I gave her one. A pink one. She didn't seem to mind the color change. The other three were hidden away in my panty drawer for safe keeping.
If only then I'd know what was to come later.