Tonight Miss Rose has been allowed to have her sheep in bed. Her sheep was a gift she was given by friends of my parents when she was just three weeks old and is the first soft toy she ever showed any interest in. Since then Sheep has become extremely important and is always tucked under her fluffy blanket when we go on excursions. However, until now I haven’t put sheep in the cot with her because I don’t want her to suffocate. That said, the arms on that child she manages push ups better than mine and rolls at such a rate she could complete the marathon in an hour. I decided to give it a go, she wakes so regularly that perhaps having Sheep there will calm her.
When I was a child I had a troll doll. She was a large troll with a soft body and a hard plastic head with the shock of pink hair tufting out vertically and was dressed as a ballerina. Her name was Sylvia after my ballet teacher. I loved Sylvia. Sylvia was my best friend before I understood what a best friend was. Sylvia was there when the most important person in my life, my mother, couldn’t be. She was warm and soft, she smelled of love and cuddles and security and safety. She was my mum in a doll.
As a child your teddy, doll, Sheep, it is the thing that reassures you of consistency. No matter who comes and goes, where you go and what you do, it’s there. For Miss Rose Sheep will be there, slightly grey and slightly tatty, but there. Right now she is lying on her side, snoring contentedly, with her arms around Sheep. Will it make a difference to her sleep? I don’t know… I hope so… but that is not really the point. If Sheep makes her feel safe and relaxed and reminds her that even if she can’t see me I’m there then that is all I can ask.
My Sylvia was stolen from me and it cuts me up to this day. An ex of mine, Adam, who did many things to me I won’t talk about now stole my Sylvia. When that happened all the anguish, the pain, the betrayal, the fear, it all culminated there in that lost doll. It felt like my innocence and trust was ripped away by that relationship and by that stolen toy. True to form my mum scoured eBay until she found a replica, bid fortunes for it, and presented it to me on the birthday I had just weeks later. In all honesty I didn’t appreciate it right then, I broke down. It felt like my Sylvia had been replaced with an imposter and all that hurt which I had felt when she was taken was suddenly shoved in front of my face and I wasn’t prepared to handle it in such an onslaught. It all came at once and I panicked. I couldn’t cope with the smiling face, the pink hair, the pristine unripped, unsmudged, tutu.
In truth it was one of the kindest things anyone could have done. She saw the pain, she understood the loss and how significant that doll was to me, and went out of her way to make it better in the only way she could. Years later after getting together with my husband and being through therapy I found Sylvia mark two in a box where I had hidden her, unable to face her. I broke down again, this time because she represented to me the truth depth of my mother’s love for me. I no longer saw Adam and all he represented in my life, I saw my mum. My mum who had bought me original Sylvia, who had carefully washed her and panicked in case she disintegrated making plans for how to get a replacement should it be needed. My mum who had got trains back into London when we realised on the way home she had been left in an Underground toilet, who had no doubt that returning for the lost doll was the only right thing that could be done. My mum who had made sure that if she was carried in a bag, Sylvia’s face was always exposed to the air to make sure she could breathe, and who would gently tuck her back into bed with me if I knocked her out when I was sleeping. My mum who loves me enough to understand that even as an adult a lost doll is devastating and was willing to pay over the odds to replace it, just so she could make me smile in a time when I was feeling such pain.
Sheep is Rose’s Sylvia. I remember how important Sylvia was to me and I will respect that importance for Rose. I remember being a child. I remember the importance of my mum and I remember the importance of my doll. I won’t forget. Miss Rose’s best friend Sheep will be respected appropriately, protected, washed, and returned for should the need arise, and perhaps even one day replaced. It won’t be the same Sheep, it’s not the same Sylvia, but it will represent all that is good and safe in the world and that is what matters most.