This is Lucky, my prized possession. He’s been with me since I was six years old. They said Santa brought him but I knew he was from my mom. It was love at first sight when I met him in the window of the service station by Omaha Airport. He was sitting on a shelf next to a purple horse just like him, brothers.
There were shelves of stuffed animals. You couldn’t walk in and buy one it was some mysterious process I didn’t understand involving fill ups and stamps or something. I didn’t tell anyone how much I wanted him, so much my heart ached. I don’t recall what car my mom had but I remember running to the window each time to see if he was still there, until he wasn’t.
We lived with my Grandma. Mom and Dad were in the long nasty process of getting a d-i-v-o-r-c-e. They used to spell it. Dad called on Fridays after he’d been drinking all afternoon to argue with Mom but she was out with her girlfriends. She was never there.
They were both only twenty four. They were mean drunks and fought violently in front of us, screaming, punching, pinning each other to the floor, choking, breaking furniture and lamps. I was five and my sister was three. It was horrifying, damaging.
The last fight was my fault. Mom took us to a garage after it was closed. It belonged to one of Dad’s friends. He let us in. We sat in the waiting room that smelled like grease while they went into an office and locked the door. We didn’t belong there. I could hear what they were doing. What they were doing was wrong and when we came home late my dad was waiting, drunk, with bottles lined up by his feet. He yelled, where the hell have you been! She ran past him and locked herself in their bedroom. He grabbed my arm and shook me, roaring in my face, where the hell have you been, and I told him. I was terrified and justified and after I told him I wished I hadn’t.
At Grandma’s house it was peaceful, orderly. Captain Kangaroo became my TV Dad, told me stories and kept me cheered up. He had a kind voice and looked right out at me from the television. I spent mornings with him and his family, Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose, in the Treasure House before I had to walk to school. It was lonely. Nobody else had divorced parents. We weren’t supposed to tell anyone.
Mom got a job at the Tip Top factory making fancy bobby pins, she glued the roses and other pretty flowers to them and brought home big assortments for our hair. Then she’d go out with her girlfriends. On Saturdays Grandpa drove us uptown to go shopping. We walked on either side of Grandma with our hand in the pocket of her fur coat as we went down Woolworths huge staircase to the lunch counter to have a glazed donut that was almost big as the plate.
Grandma was the one who took us to see Santa Claus. We had our picture taken, the two of us on his lap. We both looked so lost and sad. I couldn’t think of anything to tell Santa to bring me. All I wanted was the little brown horse and he was gone. A real horse or a puppy was so far out in the future I wouldn’t let myself even think about it. I knew Santa couldn’t make families whole again, or even like each other.
Then Christmas Eve after dinner there he was,the little brown horse, tucked up against some wrapped boxes under the tree in Grandma’s living room. I think I was too shocked to even squeal but I remember thinking I’m so lucky, I’m so lucky.
This lifetime later my cheek still fits perfectly into his dished face. He’s been with me through floods (he went into my suitcase instead of clothes, I was ten), fire, famine, heartache and joy, two husbands, (well the first one really didn’t count), childbirth, and moved everyplace I’ve ever lived. He’s had surgery on his neck three times, lost his first mane and tail, had his second mane and tail torn out by Gracie, my first Basset. He’s heard a million secrets and been my stand in family when I was alone.
When I look at him I feel Lucky still that my mom knew, she knew and surprised me even though I told on her. Through years of her many bouts with mental illness before we knew what was wrong Lucky was the touchstone, the connection that under it all, even though it didn’t seem like it, my mom did love me.