As an artist, and a quasi-philosopher of life, I am interested in things and the importance of things to people. I believe that in some cases, we are as attached to inanimate objects as we are to animate objects. Therefor it didn’t surprise me at all at how suddenly saddened and then bereaved I felt last Saturday night on reading these lines on Instant Messenger from my husband:
‘I’ve got a bit of a problem. Josh isn’t going to be happy. Duckie’s not in my bag, and the last time I saw him was in the airport in Washington [frown emoticon] I can’t believe it, I’ve just emptied my bag looking for him.‘
Last week my husband went to Washington D.C. for work and he took our middle boy’s beloved soft ‘Duckie’ with him. Duckie had been given to Josh by my sister when he was born nearly ten years ago. Duckie is a rather floppy, soft, grubby duck and Josh has looked after him since he was tiny. He has slept with him. He has taken him on school trips and holidays. He has loved him. Duckie is one of his most prized possessions. My husband’s idea (a good one at the time) was to take photos of Duckie enjoying a trip to the U.S. Here are some of his photos.
All went very well. Josh loved seeing the photos as they arrived piecemeal to his email. However, the sweet idea went very sour when Duckie was accidentally left behind at Ronald Reagan Airport and my husband and the rest of his belongings boarded a United Airlines plane to Newark.
As soon as he realised what had happened, he logged a lost-item report with the airport and I began a mini-social networking campaign to find Duckie. I made a poster.
The next morning Josh made his own poster. We were both determined to get him back.
We sent Josh’s poster across the internet with the help of many very kind friends (and the odd celebrity – thank you Boycie) on the heels of mine. However, Duckie has not come home. He hasn’t yet turned up in the Lost and Found of Ronald Reagan Airport. He has disappeared. We don’t know where he is. As a family, we are now bereaved. We can’t replace Duckie. Even if I could find an exact replica for Duckie, it would not be Duckie.
But Duckie is just a thing. It’s not even a he. It’s an it. It’s material. To anyone else, it is a tatty disposable old toy. It isn’t vital to life. All it does is bring some comfort to a child. Any old bit of cloth could fulfil that function.
Oddly, I feel disloyal just typing that description of Duckie. I feel very defensive and hurt that those words are the objective truth. To us, though, Duckie is not just material. He’s not an ‘it’. He’s Duckie. He has a personality. He’s my son’s best friend. He has a real purpose. The comfort he brings could not be replaced by anything else. He’s a member of our family. He’s as important as a pet. He cannot be replaced and we will always miss him.
Objectively, this does not make sense. Duckie is an object. We still have our health, each other and we are not in danger. Losing Duckie is a first world problem and a small one.
I know all of this, yet the pain is real and it hasn’t gone away yet. I’m not being dramatic. The feeling exists.
Duckie is an object but we love him and want him home. I am not ready to give up.