An attempt to rekindle the lost bond between mother and child
|Children are the true connoisseurs. What's precious to them has no price -only value (Bel Kaufman)
“Where’s Pup-pup!” cries Ricky, as he slithers under the wooden bookshelves, and then reverses out the same manner. He scans the lounge then hastens to Dezerea and embraces her. “Where’s Pup-pup?”
She clears her throat, but the words seem trapped somewhere within; trapped by guilt; trapped by fear of losing what remained of her seven year old son’s respect and trapped by the sudden realization that perhaps she may be doing the wrong thing.
“I have something to tell you, honey,” she says at last.
Ricky suddenly stops crying. He tears himself from her plastic sympathy and scowls. Whatever regard he still has for her teeters on the brink of collapse.
“What did you do to pup-pup?” he asks suspiciously.
“Pup-pup is only kapok and fluff” affirms Dezerea “Your Mummy is real. Do you understand the difference between what is real and what is pretend?”
“I fink so,” he replies, shrugging his shoulders.
Dezerea had run this speech through her mind more times than she cared to imagine, but now as she stands in front of the distraught boy, none of the underlined reasons seem sound excuses for breaking his heart. Yet, she owes him an explanation.
“I love you very much,” she says, her own eyes turning misty.
“I love you too Mummy.”
A silence falls between them for what seems an eternity, until the electronic jingling of her cellphone interrupts it. It startles them and quickly defuses the tension.
Saved by the bell- she thinks, cupping his chin. She drops her hand, retrieves the phone from the hip pocket of her Adidas hoodie and leaves the room.
Ricky sighs, paces across the room and slumps upon the couch; arms folded close to his pudgy tummy, head downcast, and bottom lip protruding. He feels intolerably insecure.
“Yes,” says Dezerea speaking softly into the telephone, so as Ricky will not hear, “You can pick it up at three this afternoon… okay I’ll see you then.”
Dezerea repockets the receiver, and then mentally prepares herself for Ricky’s dramatic response. She sits next to the boy.
“Listen, Honey,” she begins in a calming voice, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. “You get a lot of joy from your friendship with Pup-pup.”
Ricky lifts his glistening pupils but keeps his head down.
“Yeah,” he replies.
“Well, there are a lot of other boys and girls, just like you, who would love to own a fluffy little dog friend but for one reason or another are unable to. That is where voluntary organizations can help.”
“So you want me to give Pup-pup away, just like that: throw him out like an old apple core?”
“I’m not asking you to throw him away, honey. Do you remember Sandra Dune from the Children’s Hospital?”
“Sort of… what about her?”
“Well, she would like to add Pup-pup to the collection of soft toys at the hospital.”
“Me and Pup-pup are bestest of friends. We need each other,” states Ricky, starting to lose his voice. “You can't take him away! Please Mummy...please!"”
“He’ll make new friends … so will you. Think of all the children you’ll be making happy.”
“No....I don’t want other children to be happy. I want Pup-pup.”
“You told me the other day that your favorite thing in the world is making other people happy. Well, now is your chance to light up an otherwise unhappy day by the act of sharing.”
“I-I hate other children and I h-hate you!” explodes Ricky, glaring at her with bitter eyes.
He runs from the living room, crying.
Dezerea gives a disgruntled sigh as she hears his bedroom door slam, followed by distant bawling. She stares thoughtfully at her painted fingernails; casting her mind back to the day that Ricky opened a brown parcel, from under Christmas the tree and unwrapped a dog shaped cuddly-toy. It was pink with long dangling ears, orange and black button eyes, a red heart-shaped mouth and four rounded, protruding arms for embracing.
Love at first sight was the only expression Dezerea could find to describe Ricky’s first impression, and from that moment on Pup-pup, as he so aptly named it and the boy became inseparable friends. They talked together, played together, and even shared the same bed at night. She smiled when he first assumed an Ace Crime Fighter capacity for his friend, by tying a spotted handkerchief round its neck. He would then pick him up and running along the hallway, pretending the dog was warping lightspeed. That was fine, as long as he didn’t cause accidents, but after awhile his imagination became a little too over productive and he started believing the cuddly toy to be real, with the ability to grasp languages and even get up to mischief. Slowly, an uncharacteristic trend of deliberate disobedience and insolence wormed its way into Ricky’s antics. He became less and less dependent on Dezerea’s favour and started preferring the company of Pup-pup. Slowly, but surely the bond he once shared with his mother seemed to drift by the wayside.
She tried earnestly to encourage his former pleasantness to return: rational reasoning, stern warnings, and corrective punishments, yet his behavior would not improve. Seldom would he take responsibility for his own actions and nine times out of ten he would blame Pup-pup instead. In the end, she resorted to giving him the occasional slap across the back of his hand. It proved to be a formidable short term deterrent, but only drew him further from her and closer to the dog.
Something had to be done and done swiftly. She knew if things carried on the way that they were going … well, she was scared what she might end up doing. Someone had to go, and that someone was going to be Pup-pup.
The chiming grandfather clock interrupts her thoughts. She ambles to the kitchen, makes herself a coffee, then returns and switches on the television. An hourglass appears on the screen and a voice says, “Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.”
It is just after 1:30 p.m. when Ricky awakes. He yawns with his arms outstretched, slides from the tangles bed sheets, then trudges barefoot down the hallway, and re-enters the lounge, in silence.
“Return of a man called Horse,” comments Dezerea, shifting her attention from the television soap opera to her own domestic drama. She looks the difficult handful up and down. His hair resembles a bird’s nest gone wrong, his eyes are raw. Tears have carved crevices in his cheeks, his nose is runny and his clothes are in an untidy state.
“I’m sorry,” apologises Ricky softly, hanging his head in shame.
“That’s okay, honey,” says Dezerea, drawing the child nearer. She wipes his nose with a tissue then grooms the bird’s nest into a respectable crop with a brush. “We can’t have you looking like a tramp when Mr. Dune arrives. Goodness knows what a gossip she can be.”
“So you’re still getting rid of Pup-pup?”
“I’m sorry, honey. It is really for the best. Promise me you won’t make a scene when she arrives,” she petitions, tucking Ricky’s “Road Runner” top into his gray sweat pants.
“Good boy. Now Mummy is watching her programme. Why don’t you go back to your room and play quietly for awhile.”
“Just one more thing,”
“What is it, honey?”
“You never told me where you put Pup-pup.”
“He’s sitting in a box, by the front door, waiting for Sandra Dune to arrive.”
“Would it be alright if I said good-bye to him?”
“Of course, but not now; the more time you spend with the dog the harder it will be to give him up. Now, please, I want to see the end of this programme.”
“Okay, then. I’ll go to my room. Ricky reluctantly obliges, not really understanding her philosophy. He dawdles back to his room, lies on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, and mentally relives the happy days of Pup-pup.
Dezerea finds it hard to concentrate on the program. She starts having second thoughts. The absence of the cuddly toy will no doubt give more quality time, but how long will it last? If a secondary bond is what the boy wants, he will find it one way or another, whether by means of a cuddly toy, a neighbouring child, a pet, or even an imaginary friend.
“Mummy,” shouts Ricky, suddenly running back into the lounge.
“I thought I told you to go to your room.” She snaps.
“How bout we make a deal?”
“Deal? What are you talking about?”
“You say I gotta give Pup-pup to the hospital so the sick boys and girls will be happy.”
“That’s about the size of it.”
“What if I give ‘em sumfing else, sumfing to make ‘em happier-er. Could I then keep Pup-pup?”
“I don’t know,” replies Dezerea, putting a good deal of thought into her answer. “Have you such a thing?”
“If I did, could I? Huh?” he repeats, looking pitiful.
“Oh, all right, if you can find something that will give those kids more pleasure, you can keep him. If not he’s going to the hospital.”
“Yay! I’ll find sumfink, you just wait and see!” he declares, embracing her. Then he runs back to his room in search of a befitting substitute.
One by one be, he retrieves various items of pleasure; his building blocks, favoured board games, a toy drum, matchbox cars, plastic dump trucks, and even half-finished colouring-in books. Dezerea agrees that they are worthy contenders, but none seem to hold a candle to Pup-pup.
Time marches on, and despite the constant rejections, he continues presenting everything, from the sibylline to the serene of his possessions. Finally, he runs out of offerings and sits dejected on the edge of his bed.
Dezerea’s heart sinks at the sound of the buzzing. She stands up, inspects the lounge, and then checks herself in the mirror. Passing years had greyed patches of her long auburn hair, while alcohol had dulled her eyes. It seems doubtful that her floral V-neckline three quarter sleeveless shift dress she has changed into will impress Sandra, but it was the only semi-formal item that still fitted her expanding waste-line. She then brushes her curly brown hair for the 14th time, and then walks slowly down the hallway and opens wide the door.
“Hello, Dezerea. Sorry to have kept you waiting, that jolly traffic is shear hell at this time of the day,” says Sandra “Looks as though we’re in for a wet weekend. It’s started raining already.”
“You don’t have to be sorry, Sandra. Traffic can be a real nuisance. Please come in. I was just about to make a cuppa. Would you care for one?”
“You’re most kind, Dezerea, most kind.”
Dezerea takes Sandra’s oilskin raincoat, shows her to the lounge then paces into the kitchen. She switches on the jug then forages in the cupboards for some finger food.
“Lovely house you have,” compliments Sandra when Dezerea emerges once more, carrying a fancy teapot, cups with matching sauces, a crystal sugar bowl and a milk jug and a bread and butter plate of chocolate thins upon a tray. “I do so much like the old-fashioned houses. They have such character. This place would look a real gem if was done up.”
“Yes, Alan and I are thinking of renovating as soon as we get the okay from the council,” states Dezerea, placing the tray upon a coffee table. She pictures Sandra a compatible partner for Jubba-The-Hutt. “Though, by the looks of it, that may not be till early June. You know how the way these bureaucrats drag these things out.”
“So where’s this dog thing of yours?” asks Sandra, placing teaspoon after teaspoon of sugar in the tea.
“The ‘dog thing’has a name. It's Pup-pup!” says Ricky, suddenly entering the lounge holding a flat rectangular object, wrapped in newspaper.
“You remember my son?” asks Dezerea.
“Of course I do. Little Ricky was a guest at our happy little home away from home some time back.” she acknowledges. “How’s it going, Tiger?”
Ricky does not answer. He just looks her up and down, shrugs his shoulders then walks over to Dezerea and presents her with the package.
“I’ve found something that’s sure to make ‘em happy.” he states confidently
“Look, we’ve already been through this. You have nothing to top Pup-pup,” affirms Dezerea, “you promised not to make a scene, remember?”
“At least look.” he brazenly prompts. “…Please Mummy.”
“So what’s all this about?” buts in Sandra, sipping the sweetened tea.
Dezerea fills her in about the deal.
“Please give me one last chance?” beseeches Ricky, gazing at her through glistening pupils. He gently places one palm on her left shoulder.
“Oh, alright, but if it’s another dud, you can go kiss the dog goodbye” Dezerea agrees, giving in to his emotional blackmail just to keep the peace. She unfolds the newspaper and then smiles.
“So what is it?” asks Sandra, breaking the silence that has suddenly engulfed the lounge.
“I’m sorry, Sandra, but I’ve decided not to give Pup-pup away after all.”
“Oh,” replies the guest in an indignant tone. She places the teacup back on the tray and gets to her feet. “Well, if you change your mind, you know where I am. Don’t worry, I’ll find my own way out.”
Sandra walks along the hallway; her mind reeling with slanderous gossip. She retrieves the raincoat, walks out into the cold blustering southerly, then boards her car and drives back to the hospital, to attend to some unfinished overpowering.
“I love you, honey.” says Dezerea, drawing Ricky closer and kissing his left cheek. She lifts him onto her lap and places one arm round his waist.
“Thanks for letting him stay.”
“It’s the least I can do. It never entered my head that you felt that way.”
“I’ve always felt that way. Can I go and get Pup-pup out of the box? He must be lonely in there.” he asks “Please.”
“You do that, honey.” says Dezerea letting the boy slide off her lap. She pats his bottom and watches as he hurries down the hallway. “Kids, huh; who’d have ‘em?”
Ricky returns a short time later with Pup-pup pressed to his heart. He places the dog on the couch, retrieves his most valuable possession, then paces back to his room and puts the framed photo of Dezerea on top of the dresser.
“Mummy,” says Ricky in a quiet voice as he paces back in the lounge, holding a book. “Read me a story.”
“Okay, honey, go sit by your friend and I’ll read to you.” she answers, feeling for all her efforts nothing has really changes until Ricky suddenly climbs on her lap. “Aren’t you going to sit by your friend?”
“I already am, Mummy,” he states, wriggling himself in to a comfortable position and chews on his thumb. “I already am.”
Ricky rekindles the lost security and relaxes as she starts reading aloud. His eyelids start to close, and his body relaxes until he is fast asleep on the body of his best friend. For the first time in over eighteen months, Pup-pup takes a backseat to his affection.
Dezerea had no idea whether this is a turnover of a new leaf; she can only hope and pray; and hope and pray and nurse and read she does. It’s a golden moment in her life, one she knows she’ll never forget.