“I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck. A barrel and a heap, yes a barrel and a heap, and I’m talkin’ in my sleep about yoouuu….”
Jill stopped short, almost unable to breathe when she heard a young mother singing that to her toddler, complete with hugs and nose rubs, just the way Jill’s grandmother had done for her. She hadn’t heard that in 40 years, and the tidal wave of nostalgia that came with it nearly knocked her over.
The young mother noticed Jill’s discomfort and nervously gathered up all the paraphernalia that accompanies toddlers, and the toddler herself. As they left the park bench, the young mother cast glances behind her as if she expected Jill to follow. Once they were beyond the playground area and out of sight, Jill sat down. Behind the park bench she spied a small fuzzy thing, familiar looking and worn. The toddler’s toy had apparently fallen off the seat in the scurry to gather her up.
Jill reached down and picked it up, the catch in her throat returning. It was Spareribs, her toy dog from childhood, worn fur and missing left eye. It couldn’t be – that toy was destroyed in the house fire that killed her grandmother. But it was, she was certain. Her grandmother had made that stuffed animal. There wasn’t another one like it anywhere.
Jill’s phone rang, startling her back to the present.
“Jill! I’ve been trying to reach you for hours! Why did you check yourself out of the hospaital? Where are you now?”
“I’m…I’m…” The strangeness of the day wouldn’t release her voice. “I’m at the park.”
“Stay right where you are – I’m on my way.”
The phone went dead and Jill was catapulted from awed confusion to dread of the disapproval of her therapist. She looked down at the small furry thing in her hand. It was a dead squirrel. Tears began to stream down her cheeks and she set the squirrel gently on the ground. It twitched, jumped up and ran off.
Jill’s head began to pound as the sounds of the park changed to colors, and then to tastes. There was nothing to do now but lie down on the bench and wait for the therapist. Maybe this time she could convince her that her grandmother was obviously not really dead.