Back in Blighty, we have "Jumble Sales." They are rather like yard sales or small-scale flea markets, usually held in dank church halls, or rearranged and bleached school canteens. They are frequented by elderly ladies who smell of lavender and have dangerously sharp elbows. The point of a jumble sale is to get rid of all your shit that you no longer have use for, and for the church, charity or endeavour to make money. The point of attending... well, it's slightly less well defined, but those treasure-seeking, antique-snuffling, bargain-hunting floral octogenarians, froth at the mouth to get elbow-deep in piles of jettisoned tat.
I had a lot of toys. I was like the Octomom of the Cabbage Patch nursery. Certainly, I didn't NEED all those weirdly-named adopted children with squidged faces like Leonardo DiCaprio, or brightly coloured animal mutants.
I was almost nightly drowned in a sea of soft toy, smothered by Cabbage Patch Doll hair, asphyxiated by Wuzzle trunk, or tail or horn. I was often found--so I am told--half out of bed, limbs dangling from the edge of my mattress, in slumbering retreat and surrender to the toy sprawl.
And thus--very maturely, I thought--I bundled up a bag of...rejects. Katie was my one-eyed, hair-hacked plastic baby. I think she was probably second-hand when given to me. (As the youngest of two, and then of all the cousins, and a June baby to boot, so youngest in my school year, most things were second hand; by the time they got to me, someone else had loved and squeezed the shit of them, but heck, they were new to me and I was grateful.) Katie was such a foundling. I might have loved her at one stage, but she didn't have the cornsilk hair of my Cabbage Patch clutch; she didn't have nice clothes--she sported a knitted yellow onesie with a patchwork grass green pocket; she didn't make noise or cuddle well at all. Frankly, she was ugly, and blinded, and, since I had got scissor-happy with her blonde hair, she rather resembled a strange lesbian pirate baby in a custard-yellow prison jumpsuit.
I gave her up without much soul-searching. I had grown out of her. Why not give her away at the jumble sale? I didn't want her anymore.
She was tossed in the plastic bag, face down, yellow feet up, the handles were tied together and the bag was thrown into the back of an open truck. I felt so mature being able to give up my things. I had let go of something that no longer served me. I had decluttered! I had move on! I had put away childish things... and other grown-up cliches.
I must have slept well. I was a content kid, the over-thinking consciousness was yet to kick in. I can only imagine that I must have awoken to the sea of stuffed toys and plastic dollies in my bed and felt a Home Alone-esque, cheek-clasping realization that one of my babies was missing: "KATIE!"
I remember running to Mum in a panic. I had made a big mistake! I didn't mean to give her up. I wanted her back! How could I get her back?! I loved her! She was my one-eyed lesbian convict pirate baby!
I cried. I wailed. Yes, I was old enough to know better, but sometimes our hearts speak without thinking. I couldn't bear the thought of someone else cradling my baby, singing her sea shanties, and telling tales of her lost eyeball. I didn't care that someone might love her or look after her better than I, or that I had many more pretty dolls, without bad buzz jobs. She was mine and I wanted her back!
Mum phoned the school secretary, Mrs Windsor. I watched intently, eyes awash and over-spilling with hot, stricken tears. She was laughing! How could she laugh? I had lost my baby!
When she replaced the receiver she reeled me into her, my hot face buried at her waist. Mrs Windsor would look for Katie she promised. Don't worry, there would be a way to get her back.
And so it was, I later learned, that Mrs Windsor, her own children around my age, picked through the jumble of discarded belongings, through bag upon bag until she located the odd one-eye baby with the razored hair and the unenviable wardrobe. Katie was restored to me. I forget what happened then. I probably made a fuss of her, told her I loved her all along and would never let her go again, but of course, I did.
I thought of that this week, decades later, as I watched a friend release their former loved one for reasons of sound judgement, and then, the panic... the self-sabotage, as the innate instinct of familiarity and belonging and ownership screams to get them back, reel them in again, bring them home, love them more. Sometimes the screams are so loud they drown out the many little voices that raised discontent in the first place. And this panic is human. The thought of you without, in bed alone; the thought of your baby with someone else. It hurts, even if you did instigate it. But, and here is my point, if you had the gumption to let go, don't grasp back on, it's just confusing and time-wasting and pointless.
A good friend said once, "There are plenty more Muppets in the Sesame Sea," and some day, you will find one that you never consider letting go of, or donating to the jumble pile. So chin up, dear friend. Thrive on!
(And remember, if you get weepy, it's just "an inflammation in your tear gland.") ;)