8:30 pm...the car turns into the driveway, up to the welcoming glow of lighted windows peering out into the cold, fall night. Out bounces two tired, but silly children, stopping to jump in the pile of crunchy leaves near the driveway before being coaxed into the house by two weary parents. Anticipating a quiet, comfy couch, a warm blanket, a steaming cup of tea, and a fascinating documentary after the final hurdle of bedtime routines is accomplished, this mom rather impatiently rushes through jammies, teeth, and prayers. Upstairs we go, my energetic preschooler, racing ahead of my husband and I so he can get in a few more giggles and bounces on the bed before being kissed and tucked in for the night. Lights out, music playing, a familiar question is then asked..."Where's Donkey?"
Donkey is not in Trent's bed, he's not in the toy basket, not on Mommy and Daddy's bed, nor inside of the seat of the rocket ship that he likes to hide in. We search the family room, living room, sister's room, kitchen, bathroom, on and on. Nothing unusual here. This is a common, though unwanted, pastime nearly every night. We go to the basement, look in closets, drawers, behind shelves, in the bathtub! The sought after Donkey is searched for in more and more of the most unusual spots. I go outside to the car to search while Derek enlists the help of our two kids, eager to escape from bed. Trent isn't concerned, "I know where he is!" he gleefully shouts as he somersaults out of bed onto the floor. "He's wight here!" says Trent as he flings dress up costumes from the bin onto the floor. Suddenly, he's struck with an urge to become a knight. Donkey's forgotten, as he plops a helmet onto his blonde head and pulls out a sword. Grace mentions seeing Donkey in the car when we went to the grocery store this afternoon. I look again in the car, Derek looks, a sinking feeling starts to invade my body.
"Did you see if he brought it into the store?" I ask my daughter.
"We really should just keep Donkey in Trent's bed so we don't go through this every night." Derek dutifully states. This statement is made every time Donkey is lost, but Donkey has been with his owner so long now, he seems to be a part of him and is rarely noticed except when he is missing! With this ability to blend into his owner, Donkey has a way of going anywhere his heart desires in the arms of his beloved boy. "O.k. get back in bed" Derek says to our children who are more interested in delaying bedtime than in searching for a missing plaything. There really isn't a question about whether it is possible for Trent to sleep without Donkey. It's never been done.
With perfect faith that his parents will find Donkey, Trent climbs back into bed while I pull out the phone book. "Hello..I was at your store earlier today and I was just wondering of anyone turned in a little, gray, stuffed donkey?" I nervously ask. The voice on the other end, without a second thought, replies to the contrary. Doesn't she understand how important this is? She could at least give it a little thought!! I hang up the phone, grab the flashlight, and head into the blackness of the backyard. I don't think Trent even played out here today, but desperation is driving me. I find a forgotten fire helmet, a baseball bat, and some tools that were supposed to be in the shed. What if Donkey fell out of the car when we opened the door to go into the store? I will have to just go and investigate myself.
With a quick goodbye to Derek, I leave the house, yank the handle of the car, and...honk, honk, honk, honk, honk.....Oooo*&%#@! How do I turn this thing off?! Why does this car have an alarm anyway? Pushing buttons, locking, unlocking with the key, in vain I persist to silence it. Derek helpfully informs me to "Push the button!" Honk, Honk, HONK, it seems to be getting louder as I self consciously look around to see how many angry neighbors are glaring at me out of their windows. Derek finally takes the keys and pushes a button. Silence. I speed away. It seems I can't get to Safeway fast enough even though this is now the third trip I've taken to this store today. I'm praying now.
I push back nightmarish thoughts of what would happen if we don't find Donkey. My eyes get a little watery. I must stop this. I can't go into the store like some crazy woman brought out with the full moon. The parking lot is near empty now at 9:30. Was it only one hour ago this all began? I park in the exact spot I was in earlier. A group of rough looking teenagers stand nearby as I carefully walk around in circles looking for a tattered, precious piece of gray fur while thinking of what my sister told me about the recent gang activity in our valley. Not trusting that insensitive phone girl, I walk back into store to ask someone else if they perhaps found a stuffed donkey. This time, I go straight for the manager, struggling to keep my voice from cracking, I ask him... no? Doesn't he want my phone number?
Back in my car, I think, perhaps I should call the radio station, look through the garbage cans in the parking lot? I do neither as I head home, feeling like an elephant is sitting on my chest. I think about what large sums of money I would be willing to pay to get this precious Donkey back into my son' arms and what other things such as cars or jewelry, I would gladly lose in place of this toy.
At home, Derek has retreated to the computer. Trent, still wide awake and playful, starts to worry. My heart is racing as I sit dejectedly on that same couch I had so longed to relax on earlier. I plunge my hand deep into the cushions even though both Derek and I have done this several times tonight. What's this? It feels like a sock, I pull out...Donkey! It's a party now as everyone celebrates! Shortly after, Trent snuggles up under his blankets, the mischievous daytime expression replaced by the nighttime look of an angel. Tomorrow, we'll make sure Donkey stays in Trent's bed ;)