This is Snuggle Puppy.
Many of you may be quite familiar with Sandra Boynton's oeuvre, and "Snuggle Puppy" is one of my favorites of her books. I don't recall if I picked it out, or if it was a gift at the baby shower, but we've had it as long as we've had kids. Then someone else gave us the book and recording in a larger anthology, and Eric Stoltz sang the song (swoon, it's Keith!!).
At Christmas, 2004, his first one, Connor came home from daycare with a small bag tucked into his regular bag, and in it was this small stuffed animal from his main caregiver at daycare, Ms Regina. Ms Regina was critical in our lives because she helped us learn that there will be many different people who will love Connor only for who he is, and nothing else. The first few days of daycare were difficult for me, just as any new mom. I had called the center when he was diagnosed while we were still only on the wait list. I told them that he had some serious problems that would require extra care, and that we understood if that would prevent him from being eligible any more. I didn't want to take up space on the wait list if he couldn't go there. Oh, that will be fine, don't worry about it, the director told me. About two months later we were off the wait list, and into the deep end.
I am lucky that the day care was only a few blocks away. I could go nurse a lunch and check in. Regina was given immediate charge over Connor. She tried to nickname him Connor-Bonnor but that did not stick. So she went with the next most obvious nickname: Homeslice. And she loved him. Love with a capital L. Her notes on his day were hilarious, as she celebrated every possible thing her Homeslice did. She called me at work to tell me he was growing a tooth in the middle of his mouth. He wasn't of course, but her concern swallowed up her reason, and she called me before checking it out.
He had burped up some milk solid. It was stuck to the roof of his mouth. We laughed for a while.
Then she gave him a Christmas present. I'm not sure if she gave one to each of "her" kids.
So many things given to Connor have been co-opted by his brothers. They have been taught to ask and to wait for him to wave his hand to indicate it's all right. They are never allowed to take Snuggle Puppy from Connor's room. It's the one tangible link I have to Regina, who no longer works at that facility. I wish she did - I would take him to see her. I cannot imagine how she would react to seeing him. On his last day of daycare, he sent most of the day back in his old room in her arms. She sat in her rocking chair, holding him, whispering in his ears, and letting tears roll down her face. I couldn't even speak to her when I picked him up. I was 6 months along with Drew and had the teensiest grip on my emotions that day. It was my first experience saying good-bye to people who had proved me wrong about how he would be accepted in the regular world. My mom was with me, and she kept saying in a low voice, "Just keep going," and helping me make sure I had all the things that had accumulated there for him. Eventually, the director came by to say good-bye and told Regina kindly but seriously that she had to pull it together or go home - she was scaring the children with her distress.
In many ways, I miss Regina. At the same Christmas, we gave her a calendar with pictures of him, just as we gave many other family members. She told me after New Years that her husband wanted to know why they suddenly had a picture of a little white boy in their room. That told me all I needed to know about how she felt. She kept his picture in her room.
So Snuggle Puppy stays in his room.