I’ve always had an easier time interacting with objects than with people. I never know what to say to people, and I have trouble making eye contact until I have an established bond. I end up surrounding myself with particular objects, no matter how ratty and old, and relying on those things to stabilize interactions and situations. Knitting is one good example, but it goes a lot further.
When I was very small, one day my mother cooked me eggs and I refused to eat them. She told me that the eggs “wanted me to eat them”, but her plan backfired admirably when I burst into tears. I knew she couldn’t talk to eggs, but the idea of projecting consciousness onto my eggs was too much to bear.
During my first week of nursery school, I suddenly became worried that my mother wasn’t going to come back for me at the end of the day. Was she just going to keep leaving me there for increasing lengths of time? She traded me a keychain and a heart paperclip in exchange for a hastily drawn picture of a “happy mouse family”. I believed that she would come back for those, and the picture would remind her that I existed and that she loved me.
The most obvious of all is Squeaky, my “original mouse” who became my first and best friend. She was a gift when I was eight months old, and approximately my size at the time. By the time I hit 15 months we had a rather impressive bond. I dragged her along everywhere, frequently wiping my snotty nose on her poor (convenient) ears and bathing her in wagons full of dirty water. By 18 months, my name was Mouse and there was nothing anyone could do about that.
The first time I remember losing my mouse was when I’d been playing with some markers.* I was sobbing and my parents were tearing the house apart, frantically discussing a plan for “lost puffalump mouse” flyers. After several hours of searching,** I clearly remember the moment when I remembered where she was. I stopped crying and started to smile. She was in a drawstring bag, underneath all the markers.
When I hit elementary school I decided that I would keep her on the shelf because I didn’t want her to fall apart. That lasted a few hours, but I couldn’t live without her dirty grey gathers. I liked how her fabric felt when two layers were rubbed together around a chunk of stuffing. Fortunately, there have been few real scares about losing Squeaky. I confess that I still sleep with her.
When I was a little older, I lost my blue fish between our house and the neighbors’. My parents enlisted an aunt to buy me a new one and send it over, but I wasn’t fooled. I never even believed in Santa Claus; they thought they could trick me into believing they found my fish?*** In retrospect, I’m pretty sure Blue Fish got lost in the neighbors house. ~20 years later…
Losing things is a pattern and inevitable to boot, but even though my personal space is disorganized to the untrained eye I have always kept track of things.
Imagine my discomfort that within the last month I’ve misplaced two objects that are critical to my existence. The first was that same heart paperclip my mother traded me when I was three. I’d set it on the dining table**** along with some other cute things, hoping that someone would notice them. No one did, but before I could reclaim the collection the clip went missing. We don’t know where it is.
The second, as much as it’s killing me, is Purple Mouse. I don’t know for sure that she’s permanently lost, but it’s hard to look on the bright side when I’ve looked everywhere. Twice. Purple Mouse has been around for most of my life, and when she resurfaced from the depths several years ago she became my constant traveling companion. I suppose I’m an “adult” (hah!) but I haven’t lost the wiring that links me to objects with empathy.
Purple Mouse got a college education…from my bag. She’s palm sized, so you can hold onto her without getting caught with a stuffed animal in your 20s. (Yeah, that’s right. I still carry stuffed animals. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who’s bothered by that has a really boring life and needs to find something to fill the lonely hours of “being judgy”.) She traveled across the ocean and all over Senegal. She left me for my last six months of college to hang around with a friend in need, and still made it home safely and in one piece. (Oddly, this was the least reliable person I’ve ever known. Perhaps the outcome had something to do with the warning “If anything happens to Purple Mouse, I’ll probably die.”)
Purple Mouse is so old that most people think she’s grey with a purple tail and feet. You have to look under her ears and feet to see the parts that aren’t faded.
Uhm, if you couldn’t tell, I really want my mouse back. Three weeks is way too long. If these are the things that have made me a functional person, I can’t go on losing track of them. So uh…
Purple Mouse? Come Home.
* I used to draw all over my legs with markers, driving my mother insane. Later in life I figured this out; I have a slightly visible 3/8″ of blue vein above my inner left knee and at the time I thought it was marker. Time works differently when you’re three.
** Days. YEARS. Okay, I was ~3 so it could have been fifteen minutes.
*** I still have the new fish, which was slightly larger and greener than the Blue Fish.
**** Indoor Mail and Cosmic Debris Receptacle and Sometimes Sewing Station (IMCDRSSS)