You know how it is? holiday time. Hakuna Matata…..No Worries. Easy, care-free days and lovely sunsets. And the unthinkable happens. You’re ready to put the 3 year old to bed and PANDA THE BEAR has gone missing. At first you reasssure the toddler with the wide eyes and go about the apartment whistling but at full speed tearing cushions off the settees, crawling beneath beds, emptying waste bins, checking the elevator. And then, finally, when all else fails, the reality has to be accepted and kindly, with empathy for her loss and the importance attached to this treasure that has been by her side FOR EVER, bed-time has to be attempted without PANDA.
As we were a little compromised on the sleeping arrangements, it had fallen to my dubious pleasure to be sharing a double bed with my delightful grand-daughter. So on this most auspicious of occasions I lay with her in the crook of my arm as she tried to come to terms with her loss, answering some leading questions in the wake of The Lion King and relatives living on in the stars. Yes, PANDA would live on and would never leave us. He could wel live on side of her too! Yes! He would always look down on us and be there for us. Yes, he may even send a message as Mufasa had done and certainly he would be cared for and be comfortable.
I was feeling embarrassed in front of my daughter; I had been in charge of her child and PANDA when he had gone missing. To her credit she had not criticised me , but I felt the atmosphere. So, I spent the whole night with a 3 yr old tight around my neck, whimpering from time to time, feeling her loss as my own ( hadn’t I myself told him innumerable stories, play-roled as his (her) grandmother , comforted him when he (she) fell, taken his (her) temperature, walked him (her) in the park…..and I found myself saddened for his (her) parting, when in time PANDA may well have retired gracefully and gently into the recesses of all our memories….if only he hadn’t gone walk-about. Through my neglect?
Morning dawned and after a fit-ful night we cuddled again and re-lived the horrors of losing a loved one. Breakfast was shoved to one side by our little girl whose life normally revolved around food.
The beach held little allure. The bird park? No thank-you.
Misery set in and it was decided to make a pro-active approach and a concerted onslaught on Agadir’s souk, retrace my steps, in a last ditch attempt to find PANDA. Agadir has the third largest souk in North Africa; around 1500 stalls. Some time later, concluding that we were on a hiding to nothing, we aborted our efforts and packed up the necesary articles for the beach. The day passed in a silent, tense atmosphere.
Returning to the car to go back to the apartment, my daughter and I were still passing brief smiles in a mute stand-off, smiling like Rottweilers. She was smarting too for her little girl and her first taste of loss and it was all my fault. No need for words. And in return, I felt so, so bad.
Buckets and spades in the boot. Half eaten pic-nic jettisoned into a nearby bin and we climbed into the car.
Shut your eyes everybody!
Open your eyes everybody! Look who’s here?
PANDAAAAAAAAA. You naughty boy (girl……depending on role at the time). Oh ‘We Love You’.
And all that bereavement counselling; for a grey, (once pretty pink and white) PANDA of dubious gender and indeterminate nomenclature and of a dimished substance due to excessive loving; showing vestiges of marmite and sand, sporting a threadbare nose, flattened ears and an understanding , forgiving and unconditional love.
No, that’s not the end of the story. Home again, PANDA had the misfortune to fall into the toilet. No worries. I was in hospital at the time and my daughter merely shoved him in the washing machine, pleased to have an excuse to brighten the flattened fur. An hour reposing on the wood burning stove would mean he was ready for life in the fast lane again the following day. If only she hadn’t dropped off to sleep, waking to the smell of burnt polyester and the outline of a molten face embedded on the top surface of the stove. She cried. We all cried. But his memory lives on for all to see, emblazoned as he is in a white, dusty PANDA outline on top of the stove. Death by mis-adventure. Glad I had a reliable alibi for my whereabouts that fateful night!