Earlier this week I was at my brother’s house. David had somehow been exposed to poison sumac, which he’s deathly allergic to, and had swollen up like a pregnant wombat. So I was there watching my one-and-a-half-year-old niece while my sister-in-law washed everything in their entire house. Twice.
Before I left, she said, somewhat embarrassed, “I’m sorry, but we somehow have Katie Bear. I think you should probably take her home with you.”
As long as I can remember, I’ve had this little, scraggly, stuffed bear named Katie. She wanders around the house and garage getting occasionally stored away and then found again. Apparently, my niece had absconded with her several months ago without me realizing it.
“Baboo?” Sophia pointed to Katie.
“Bear?” I said.
“Baboo,” she corrected.
“This is Auntie’s bear. It’s not Sophia’s.”
“Auntie!” she declared, pumping her fist in the air (the wonderfully appropriate ASL sign for aunt). “Peas? Baboo?”
“Okay, but remember it’s Auntie’s. Can you say ‘Yes, Auntie’ ?”
“Ice,” she nodded. “Baboo. Baboo,” she sang, patting Katie’s back and rocking her.
“Time for Auntie to go,” said Christine a few minutes later. “Can you give Katie Bear to Auntie?”
“Yes, Auntie’s bear.”
“Baboo,” Sophia shook her head.
“Say ‘Byebye, Katie Bear,’ ” Christine took her from Sophia’s arms.
“Baaaaaaaaaaa booooowoah waaaaaaaboooooooo!” she shrieked.
“It’s okay, she can keep Katie Bear, I don’t mind,” I said. “No,” said Christine. “Don’t give in to her crying.”
“Hey Sophia, don’t you have a Pooh Bear?”
“Yeah, you want Pooh Bear?” I found him in the toy box and she grabbed him from me, concernedly, “Poooooh!”
“Stop whining, Luthien!” called David from the other room. Immediately she stopped wailing. “Baboo, baboo,” she whispered inconsolably, trying to keep a stiff upper-lip.
“Can you kiss Auntie goodbye?” asked Christine at the door.
Still sniffling, she glanced at my bag where she knew I was keeping Katie Bear, stuck her little nose in the air, and pointedly gave Pooh a kiss instead.