Marshmallow (despite the inevitable image this word conjures up) is not a sticky, sweet campfire treat. Rather, he is a cuddly, lovable, plush monkey. More importantly, he is a cuddly, lovable, plush monkey that belongs to Keka.
Or did, up until a few weeks ago. Let me explain...
Marshmallow entered little Keka's life last year, just before Christmas. As a matter of fact, it was during one of her many Christmas present shopping excursions that Chana stumbled across the adorable little monkey and the matching, twice-the-size Momma Monkey. As you may or may not already know, Chana has a bit of a soft spot for our furry primate friends, so she scooped the two of them up without a second thought. What a perfect present to share with her youngest daughter... a Momma and a Baby, just like them.
Well, even though Chana is the kind of person who will buy presents months in advance and keep them a total secret (or try to), I guess some gifts are just too good to hold on to because she "let the monkeys out of the bag" (to coin a phrase... sort of) as soon as she got back to the car! Keka fell in love instantly. She named her new best buddy "Marshmallow" and gave the Momma a name you would recognize as very appropriate if you knew Chana in person. And thus began the unbreakable friendship.
Now, let's skip ahead to the final days of this year's Summer Holidays. Chana and I, as you have probably read, took all six of our kids out to visit my Mom in Hope, BC and to Vancouver to see the ocean for the very first time in their lives. Even though it was a whirlwind tour and we could easily have stayed another 2 weeks, we had an awesome time and were able to show the kids some things they just don't have the opportunity to see back home. As silly as it may sound, one of these things was IHOP. Chana and I have always made a point of stopping at IHOP whenever we are on holidays, since there are none at all in Alberta, and decided to take the kids there for a "treat" dinner after visiting the Vancouver Aquarium all day.
I know what you're thinking... You're thinking, "What? Pancakes for supper?!?" Well, it may not be the most nutritious meal, granted, but they're only kids once, right? What's wrong with breaking the rules once in a while?
Well, about 4 hours later, in the middle of the night, we all knew what was wrong with the idea.
Apparently, when a 9-year old girl eats at IHOP for the very first time and finds it delicious ("yummy" in kid terms), said girl runs the risk of over-stuffing her little stomach ("tummy" in kid terms). Following such a stuffing, the "tummy", it seems, runs a high risk of engaging its "purge function" over the more traditional slow digestion. Should this occur while the child is in a wakened state, a simple panicked sprint to the nearest washroom can have the situation well in hand relatively quickly, with only minor discomfort, and virtually no mess.
Should the child fall asleep shortly after the stuffing, as was the case with poor Keka, the "inverted digestion process" becomes much more uncomfortable, and the "collateral damage" to surrounding bedsheets, rugs, and monkeys named Marshmallow can be quite serious. While it was a simple, if unpleasant, matter of some scooping, scraping, bag-tying, scrubbing, and laundering to take care of the linen and carpets, I'm afraid the particular polystyrene inner components of Keka's plush pet prevented us from being able to adequately clean him, thus leaving him in a decidedly un-cuddly state.
I left the poor, soiled creature on the deck for a day, hoping to dry him out enough that we'd be able to rid him of most of his new, unpleasant coating, but it was to no avail. By the time we returned home to Calgary, Marshmallow was no more.
Keka was devastated. She came to accept the fact that Marshmallow was forever ruined and that she'd never again fall asleep with her little cheek pressed up against his, but she wanted to say one last goodbye. Chana tried to tell her that it was too "yucky", but Keka insisted. And that's when things went from bad to worse...
Although nobody recalls throwing the little guy out, neither he nor the tightly tied bag he was in were anywhere to be found. Keka fell asleep crying that night.
Fear not, for this story has a happy ending. You just have to be patient.
Last Friday after work, Chana and I took Keka and my daughter to the store where Marshmallow had originally been purchased because she had been promised we would at least try to find another one. Now, you have to understand something... This wasn't one of your more common stuffed animal that you're going to find dozens of on a shelf at Toys R Us. It was one of those cute, I've-never-seen-this-before-and-probably-never-will-again types. You know what I mean. So, even though we were going back to the same store, we had already warned Keka not to get her hopes up and to be prepared to possibly find a new best friend.
As we guessed, there was no Marshmallow. And, as we should have guessed, there was nothing there that could catch Keka's eye with the memory of Marshmallow still so fresh in her mind. Disappointed, we left and headed back home. On the way, though, I decided to stop at Toys R Us, just in case. Sadly, although there were a ton of cute and cuddly little furry friends to choose from, none of them were Marshmallow. There was only one more place to check before giving up... Zellers, at the other end of the mall.
Now, Zellers isn't exactly the greatest department store. They are what I'd call "almost-adequate". So, we told Keka in no uncertain terms that there would be no Marshmallow here, but possibly a different animal that she could learn to love. She may only be 9, but she understood and let us take her to the toy department.
On the way, the girls got a little side-tracked by the display of Halloween costumes, trying on mad-hatter hats and trying to scare each other with rubber masks. This meant that I arrived at the aisle with the plush toys before the rest of them did. I have to tell you, I'm not sure if I've ever seen a more pathetic collection of stuffed animals. There were very few to choose from, and what was there was not of the highest quality. It was sort of like the crappy prizes they give away at carnivals after you've spent $50 trying to get a stupid plastic ring to land just right on a soda pop bottle. Poor Keka.
And then I saw Marshmallow. I couldn't believe my eyes! There, right on top, was Marshmallow! Not ruined and smelly like the last time he was seen, but restored to his former state of glory... And he was the only one! In fact, there wasn't even a sign to indicate Zellers even sold this toy, or how much he cost. I felt like I'd just stepped into the Twilight Zone! In a heartbeat, I grabbed the monkey and ran to find Keka.
I'll never be able to properly describe the look in that little girl's eyes as she took Marshmallow and crushed him against herself. It was as if she had just witnessed a miracle.
Who knows? Maybe she had.