My kid is a great traveller. He didn't complain much -- for a near-four-year-old. He took the airport pat-down in stride (nothing beats taking your shoes off in public), didn't fuss overly much about sitting in the holding area before we boarded (actually, watching the luggage loading was pretty fascinating to the little fella), and loved the airplane bathroom (I probably don't have to explain how I know that little detail).
At Disney, he woke up each morning eager to get out to the day's adventures. Breakfast was a struggle, I admit, because -- after all -- why waste time eating when you can be riding Peter's Pan's Adventure or seeking out Captain Hook for that coveted autograph? For once, there was nary a protest when we said rise and shine.
Each evening, after a long day of sensory-overload, he'd fall asleep on the shuttle that took us back to our hotel, the Caribbean Beach Resort. We'd carry him to the room and tuck him in with Turtle, his current favorite "pet." Each morning, we'd leave Turtle behind. Safe in the confines of the room.
Or so we thought.
Turtle, we had told Gavie, was much better suited to the hotel. There were too many people and too many opportunities for him to get lost at the various parks. Gavie concurred.
So we went to MGM Studios, we visited the Animal Kingdom, and we explored the Magic Kingdom sans Turtle. That was okay, Gwammy bought him a few net "pets" to hold throughout the day. We ate at a dozen different restaurants, had too much cotton candy, and gorged on popcorn. All the while, Turtle sat at the hotel, guarding Gavie's daily acquisitions.
Or so we thought.
You see, one morning was a bit rushed and, well, we left Turtle in Gavie's bed. That night, returning with a sleeping child, we gave the toy little thought. We didn't, in fact, think about Turtle until the next night. It was then that we realized that it was gone.
While Gavie slept, we turned out hotel rooms upside-down. We found a few coins, but that was it. Turtle, we could only assume, had been accidentally bundled up with the sheets when the cleaning lady came through. We called home.
"Code red, code red, Louch homeland security is at elevated levels. Code red, all stations are on alert," the big guy told his younger sister when we called home the next day -- while Gavie was on a ride with Gwammy and out of earshot. He told her about Turtle. Na, as we call her, helped fill in the biggest blank we had: where Turtle came from. Seems that Kohl's was the answer to that. It was from a Kohl's Cares for Kids promotion some time ago.
Knowing the trauma that we'd run into once Gavie missed Turtle, Uncle Donn manned the computer station and hit E-Bay. Within minutes he found a replacement thanks to someone buying a few dozen and reselling them. He and Na re-assured us that all would be well. True, but until that new Turtle came through, we were still on alert. Gwammy bought Gavie a new turtle, Squirt from Finding Nemo. For the remainder of the trip, my son somehow remained none-the-wiser, blissfully unaware that his beloved Turtle was, probably at that very moment, in the spin cycle at Disney's gigantic laundry facility.
It wasn't until Monday night that he noticed. Can we say "heart-broken sobs"? Holding my little boy as he cried for his best friend made me swear that Turtle II would never leave our house. Ever.
Two long days later, the Turtle "came home from Disney," as we told Gavie. "He was staying to help Mickey Mouse a little bit," we lied.
As long as you don't look at Gavie's Christmas portrait (with the original Turtle lovingly clutched in his three-year-old grip) and the different pattern of spots on Turtle II's back, you'd never be the wiser.
A week later, a small padded envelope arrived from Disney. We'd filed a report with the Lost and Found Department, but knowing the size of the laundry facilities and the sheer number of hotels, we had little hope. Judging by the size of the envelope, it was too small to be Turtle anyway. It was probably some little stuffed Mickey, sent to console my son.
It was, instead, one well-washed Turtle. He not only went through the whole wash cycle but also the entire drying process. You know, I never knew that stuffed animals could shrink!
I can only hope that God forgives the white lies of mothers. "Gavie! Come here, honey! Mickey sent Turtle's little brother to you!"