Like most children his age, my youngest son has a cloth thing he carries around with him everywhere. Officially known as a blankie, the cloth thing, called Baa Baa, was once white, is now grey, and looks vaguely like a dishcloth with a sheep’s head on it.
Needless to say, this unappetizing piece of fabric is the key to all harmony within our household.
It goes everywhere with us, either travelling in my handbag, or clutched in the spitty paws of our devoted two-year-old. The Baa Baa has been on planes, trains and automobiles. It has travelled in taxis, dune bashed Big Red, is a regular at the cinema and has even been to the bottom of the deep end of our local swimming pool.
It is the one object, when all other forms of comfort or bribery fail, that is guaranteed to lower the volume on our toddler. So, you can imagine my distress, when the Baa Baa went AWOL on a Friday afternoon in Dubai Mall…
It’s difficult to describe the sick feeling in the pit of one’s stomach when something so precious is lost. I’ve only ever had that feeling one other time in my life; when I was mugged in London and my entire month’s salary (I was about to pay the quarterly rent) was inside my stolen purse.
But, back to the Baa Baa. I’d driven all the way home through rush hour traffic, with two over-tired children, when the awful truth dawned. It was not in my handbag. Nor was it on the back seat of the car – and nor was it in the hands of the toddler. The Baa Baa was lost!
I called DH in a state of mortal panic. He was disturbed, but clear-headed. ‘Calm down. Just get back in the car with the boys and retrace your steps,’ he said slowly. ‘I’ll call Mum (the Baa Baa was a present from the MIL) to find out if we can get a replacement.’
I drove back to the mall with a sense of urgency I haven’t felt since I was in full blown labour with baby number 1 and a long way from the hospital. The Baa Baa would be in the car park, right where we’d left it. We just had to go back to our space. All would be fine.
Only it wasn’t. When we got there, the car park level we’d been in had been closed off for cleaning. We couldn’t get back in there. B*&&@!
For the next two hours, we trailed around the mall, trying to describe our lost treasure to bemused staff.
‘It’s a blankie – a white – I mean grey one.’ Blank look. ‘Okay – it’s a child’s toy. It sort of looks like a sheep.’
Finally, a nod of understanding. ‘Ah! A toy sheep – let me check in lost property. ‘
Me, now close to tears, ‘It’s not a sheep exactly. It’s a bit of cloth with a sheep’s head attached.’
Bemused look returns. ‘And you give this to a baby?’
Meanwhile, the toddler seemed remarkably calm. While oldest son and I rushed about frantically –leaving badly drawn pictures of the Baa Baa with my mobile number on them, he took it all in his stride.
Downtrodden and empty handed, we made our way home. The only glimmer of hope was that MIL had managed to get a replacement, and it would be with us in just a few days. ‘It won’t work,’ I lamented to DH, who’d called me on the mobile and was still doing an awfully good job of staying out of the way. ‘He likes the grubby smell. And a new Baa Baa won’t look anything like the old Baa Baa.’
I opened the garden gate with a heavy heart. But suddenly, the toddler shouted, ‘BAA BAA!’
There it was, lying on the balcony rail, mocking us with a nonchalant, grayness. ‘How the devil..?’ We never did find out how it got there. But it didn’t matter! The only thing that mattered was the Baa Baa was back!
A few days later, the new Baa Baa arrived wrapped in crisp white tissue paper and ribbons; delightfully clean and fluffy, looking nothing like its much-loved counterpart. The toddler, as predicted, was unimpressed. With one sniff, he declared, ‘Don’t like new Baa Baa’, before dropping it and sauntering into the garden to terrorize the neighbour’s cat, old Baa Baa trailing behind.