Two years ago, a miraculous transformation took place. Roary went from being Random Stuffed Cat/Tiger Sitting On The Coffee Table to Jack’s Best Friend – and a valued part of our family. So valued, in fact, that for the second time, we celebrated Roary’s birthday.
I’m happy to say that this year, Roary did not have to help Jack through any surgeries or trips to the emergency room. He did, however, stick with Jack through his the move to Stately Wasser Manor, the transition to his Big Boy Bed, a new school, and potty training. Roary and Jack play together, take naps together, and argue like brothers. When Jack is tired or stressed, he has been known to yell, “Roary! I need you!” And one of my favorite moments ever in my life came on our trip to Disney World. Jack asked Steve how we were able to hear Jiminy Cricket’s voice during the fireworks. Steve said that it was magic. Jack pointed up in the sky and said, “Look, Roary: Magic.”
Jack’s understanding of Roary’s importance has deepened in this past year. About a month ago, I heard Jack’s panicked yell from the bathroom. Acting purely on instinct, I found myself rapidly removing a pile of sodden orange fur from the toilet – Jack dropped Roary as it was flushing.
It was quite a while before Jack found the humor in that situation. He clung to Roary (who I’d secretly swapped for a clean, dry model) and thanked me for rescuing him. “Roary, you could have been lost,” he said tearfully. “You’re part of our family.”
Amazingly, that family has grown. Steve and Jack went to Barnes and Noble last week and found a selection of Roaries, who Jack immediately decided were Roary’s family and should read books with them. When it came time to put the tigers away and say goodbye to them, Jack started to move slowly. He replaced all of the tigers but one.
“Daddy,” he said, “I really want to take this tiger home with us. She is Roary’s mommy and Roary needs his mommy. And then she would be part of our family too.”
Steve listened carefully, and he could tell that Jack was being completely sincere. He was not trying to score a new tiger, so much as he was looking out for his friend. Sure enough, when Jack came home, he held Roary’s mommy over his head and announced, “Ta-da! This is Roary’s mommy and she is part of our family now and her name is Susie!” The Roary and Susie hugged and kissed.
A little while later, Jack grew pensive. He realized that Susie still had her whiskers, but that Roary’s are long gone. It made him sad to think that his friend was missing his whiskers. So, I explained to Jack that he had loved Roary’s whiskers off, and that is what happens to friends who are special to us. I showed him Rexa, who was my special dinosaur when I was a little girl, and the place under her chin where I rubbed off all of the green. I told him that it doesn’t hurt Rexa, just like the missing whiskers don’t hurt Roary, because it reminds them of how much we love them. This made Jack feel better – so much better, in fact, that the next day he removed Susie’s whiskers so that he would know she was loved, too.
We celebrated Roary’s birthday like a family: with cupcakes (marble, so they’d be striped like Roary) with orange icing (Roary’s favorite color) that we decorate with jungle animal candies and black icing stripes. I don’t recommend the black icing, but I do recommend spending a birthday with loved ones.
Happy birthday, Roary, and welcome to the family, Susie.