My daughter was three when she fell hard for a little black-and-white stuffed cow. Sadie and Cowie went everywhere together. To school and the park. To restaurants and birthday parties. At Disneyland, Sadie bombed down the Matterhorn clutching Cowie. At night, she slept with Cowie tucked under her chin.
We don’t know any Scottish people. But through Sadie, Cowie channeled a delightful brogue and a sassy personality. I got used to hearing her chuckle first thing in the morning and soon found myself talking to her like she was a member of the family.
“What do you want for breakfast, Cowie?”
“Me Cowie wants chocolate!” was the standard reply.
One day, a few weeks before Christmas, when Sadie was five, Cowie vanished.
She was with us when we stopped at Starbucks, cheerily informing the barista that the milk for my latte came from her udders. But when we pulled into our driveway, Cowie was gone.
A search of Sadie’s backpack and the car proved fruitless, as did our hasty return to Starbucks. We scoured the shelves of holiday mugs where Cowie had played. We peered under cars in the parking lot. No Cowie.
“Cowie’s gone!” Sadie wailed. “Please come back to me, Cowie!”
When I told my husband that Cowie was MIA, he said maybe it was for the best. Sadie was almost six, after all. Maybe it was time for her to let go of Cowie. I stared at him as if he’d suggested she jump out of a plane without a parachute. Sadie needed Cowie. And never mind her—what about me?
I needed Cowie. I wasn’t ready to relinquish my passport to a world where toy cows talk and little girls believe they’re alive.
So began my crazed hunt for a Cowie clone. I found hundreds of stuffed cows—they just weren’t Cowie. Two days before Christmas, I was about to give up when I clicked on a website and saw a familiar pair of button eyes gazing back at me.
I persuaded my husband to help me concoct a story to convince Sadie that the pristine Cowie she’d find under the Christmas tree wasn’t an impostor. Realizing it was futile to try and deter me from my mission, he Photoshopped a picture of Cowie in a snowstorm. We emailed it to Sadie. Cowie wrote that she’d been on a grand adventure and got caught in a blizzard. She missed Sadie terribly and was coming home. First, though, she was checking into a spa to spruce up.
I’ve never seen my daughter’s face light up the way it did when we showed her that email. Except when she ripped open the package containing Cowie on Christmas.
Cowie was just as thrilled with their reunion. Yet she never lost her itch to wander. I’ve been back to that website more than once. Because even though Sadie’s 10 now, she’s not quite ready to say goodbye to Cowie. And neither am I.
Dorothy O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Northern California with her husband, daughter and two slighly obnoxious dogs.