Curious George has been a member of our family for about three years. When we first visited Uruguay, we took George with us and photographed his adventures so that our then almost 3 year old daughter could relate more to our pictures when we returned. At that time we had no idea that George would become the dearly beloved best friend of our second (then only 3 months old) daughter, K.
So for every trip we have taken since K was about 9 months old (and I do mean every TRIP - to the store, to a friend's house, anywhere), for every nap and every bedtime, George (a.k.a. "Georgie") has been there. He wears the love well. His neck doesn't hold itself up anymore. His stuffing has been, er, redistributed. His skin tone has shifted. He has a hole in his right ear - a very significant hole, because K puts her finger into that hole and twists, even in her sleep.
Life in Costa Rica has made it a bit more challenging to keep up with George. We don't have a car, so our options for getting to our destination include: walking (with or without using a stroller), taking a bus, taking a taxi, or a combination of some or all of the above. 2 adults, 3 kids, diaper bag, other random paraphernalia, and...Georgie. Always Georgie. (Fortunately our firstborn, who still cherishes her Raggedy Ann doll, is content to leave Raggedy at home and sleep with her at night. Raggedy still makes all long trips, though:)
Have you ever noticed that when you do something out of your normal routine, it is disturbingly easy to make mistakes? Add one new variable, and the chances of losing or breaking something skyrocket. I'm guessing (hoping) that the chances of mistakes are also much higher when you have small children, and that, maybe in a few years, I will have more sanity and lose fewer things. I can dream, can't I?
Last Sunday morning was part of our normal routine - go to church. But out of our routine at the same time. For some unexplained reason, my stomach was acting up all day last Sunday, so I decided to stay home from church and keep little M with me. There is no nursery, and he is not a fan of sitting still for an hour and a half, so sometimes our Sunday mornings are a little hairy (New Variable #1). Jimbo's parents are visiting us right now (New Variable #2), so when we called the taxi and everyone piled in, there were 5 people in the taxi (which we thought nothing about since our family of 5 uses taxis all the time). But this taxi driver told Jimbo that he could only take 4 people (New Variable #3). But wait, for more $$, he says, he can take 5. So the best plan was to get out of the current taxi (New Variable #4) and walk down the street to find another one. Normally we are very careful to check the taxi to make sure we didn't leave anything behind, but the strangeness of the situation clouded the details.
On they walked, down the street, to a new taxi driver who took them to church with no problems. K didn't go to children's church because she fell asleep in church, and no one remembers seeing George anywhere on the way to church, at church, or on the way home from church. I knew, though, that George wasn't in our house, because I had asked K just before she walked out the door if she was going to take him, and I had seen her pick him up and take him with her.
Jimbo and his parents searched all over the church before they left, just to be sure that George wasn't there. When they came home without him, and found that he was not at home either, our hearts sank. We looked, but we knew we probably wouldn't find him. I called the taxi line, having heard that sometimes the drivers would turn things in. We thought that surely George had been left behind in the first taxi - the one they had to get out of because he didn't want to take 5 people. This meant that the driver was probably not going to be too inclined to help out, even if he did hear the announcement from the taxi line office.
We looked and prayed and called the taxi line, and looked and prayed some more. Jimbo even walked over to the taxi line (where the taxis wait to be called for service) and talked with a very nice "taxista" (driver) who promised to be on the look-out for George and even return him to our house if he found him!
Sunday night Jimbo, his dad, and some friends from school went to a professional Costa Rican soccer game. Jimbo couldn't really enjoy the night because his heart was so heavy. K, meanwhile, was using her budding imagination to explain to her other monkeys that Georgie had taken a taxi to the Monkey Beach (there actually is a beach here that we refer to - because of K - as the "monkey beach"). Later she came up with the idea that we should all take a taxi to the Monkey Beach to look for George.
I don't know if I can explain why the threat of this loss was so devastating for us. Would it have been so hard if we were still living in the United States? I don't know. On Monday night I cried my eyes out, begging God once again to "please bring Georgie home." The thought of my little girl without her best friend just broke my heart. Was it because I know her so well, and I understand how sensitive she is? Or was it because my heart had to once again consider a loss - a matter of grief - a hole left in our hearts as big as our love for K and her love for George. My heart has learned the importance of acknowledging the importance of loss. As I've told my oldest daughter many times, the grief we feel shows us our love for the ones we miss. I think that any parent will agree that it is easier to go through a loss yourself than to watch your child go through that loss.
Whatever the reason, our hearts were broken, and we continued to pray. On Monday night I e-mailed some ladies who pray for K specifically. One of them wrote back, believing with us that George would be found, and encouraging us to seek direction about where he might be. We did, and began to feel more and more that we should call the pastor of our church (his wife tutor's us in Spanish, so we had his cell phone number). On Tuesday afternoon I called, using my "best" Spanish to explain the situation. I could hardly finish my sentence before he said (I'm pretty sure, since he said it in Spanish), "Yes, I have it in my office. There was a monkey running on the roof." (I have yet to hear the complete story about the roof...and there was something about a girl running with George - I think a girl other than K?)
I couldn't believe it!! I was overjoyed! The pastor promised that his wife would return George to our house that afternoon. I ran into the kitchen, crying, to tell Jimbo that George had been found (it's possible that at first our empleada, who only speaks Spanish, thought that I was delivering some bad news:). What a miracle! We have no idea how George came be at church, much less to be found at church. But we are so thankful!
That night, about 9:00, K got her Georgie back (see Facebook for the picture). What a beautiful reunion it was. K knows that Jesus brought her Georgie back to her, and that Jesus loves her and wants to be her very best friend, one that will never leave her or be left behind.