1 Lost and Found
When Billy was born he was nearly lost. He came into this world with a small hole in his heart, and for the first few days of his life, he was seldom with his mother and father. He was shuffled from room to room through the maze of hallways that made up the hospital where he was born. The doctors did many tests on Billy, mostly to see how large this hole was and if, as one doctor said, “It was something to be really worried about.”
When Billy’s mother and father were told about this hole, they were much more than worried. They were afraid in a way they had not felt since they were small children, since before they had learned the words to describe their feelings. But there were no words that could describe or give comfort to the deep unease and desperation they now felt. A new baby is suddenly the dearest thing alive to a mother and father. In one miraculous moment a bond forms that is stronger than any other in life.
Billy has a hole in his heart. Will he be all right? He must be. This was all they would allow themselves to think.
So as they sat at the hospital, waiting, waiting, waiting to hear any news, Billy’s parents were in a quiet, fearful agony of not knowing. When kids are afraid they hide under the covers, or cry, or scream, “I’m scared!” But grown-ups sit very still and try to act like everything is okay—even if they feel like hiding or crying or screaming, they usually will not. This is
a grown-up thing called “coping,” which is just a polite way of saying they are terrified.
Billy’s father coped by holding his hands together very tightly and clenching his jaw until it ached. And his mother coped by making a small stuffed toy for Billy. “Toy” is a word that feels pleasant in thoughts and memories. But “toy” is also a limited word. Under the right circumstances a toy can become so very much more than something to be played with or amused by.
It can become miraculous.
This toy that Billy’s mother was sewing was already special. It was made of various kinds of deliciously comfortable fabric, which she had chosen with great care. And its shape was very pleasing. It looked like a teddy bear, but for reasons that Billy’s mother could not explain, she had also given it long ears that were vaguely rabbit-like. So it wasn’t really a bear or a rabbit; it was something all its own. It wore a blue-striped hoodie and a red
scarf around its neck and had a simple, hopeful face that gave the impression of friendliness.
Billy’s mother had a keen eye and a mother’s instinct to guide her as she made this funny little rabbit toy. Her sewing was expert. This toy may have been homemade, but it didn’t look odd or shabby—it looked steadfast and unusually charming. This is a toy that will matter, she told herself.
As she sat in the hospital waiting room, trying not to be scared for baby Billy, she was adding a last bit to the toy that would set it apart from any other in the world. She gently sewed into its chest a small heart. The heart was made from a scrap of fabric that came from something very dear to her—a toy she had loved as a child. The toy that had been her favorite.
She had called that toy Nina. It was a lovely doll, and the first time she’d ever held it, the name popped into her head and somehow seemed perfect.
Nina had been with her constantly through her childhood, and even when the doll had been loved till it had fallen to shreds, Billy’s mom had kept a bit of its once-lovely dress and the tiny bell that had been inside of Nina.
So now these tokens of her own childhood would live on in this toy for her Billy. The bell was inside the heart, and though the
blue cotton fabric was packed snugly around it, it gave a faint but pleasant jingle every time the toy was moved.
When Billy’s mom made the last stitch, she closed her eyes for a moment as a thousand memories of Nina flooded back to her. But this remembrance was interrupted. She realized the doctor was standing there. He was holding Billy, who was wrapped in blankets and not moving.
For a moment the parents’ hearts stopped. But the doctor was smiling at them, and they heard Billy make a yawning sound.
“It’s a very small hole,” the doctor explained. “A few years ago we wouldn’t even have been able to detect it. It should close up on its own. And Billy will never even know he had it.”
Billy was okay.
Billy’s parents’ fear faded away, and before they knew it they were holding him. Billy was tightly clutching one of the toy’s ears in his surprisingly strong baby grip. He made a funny little sound:
OLLY OLLY OLLY. And in that instant Billy’s parents knew the toy’s name: Oliver, Ollie for short.
What they never realized was that another small bit of magic had occurred.
Ollie knew his name too.