I was walking around Aspen, Colorado when I saw the perfect stunt double for my son’s most loved possession: his stuffed bunny, creatively named Bunny. Locals refer to Aspen mountain as Ajax, which is what we named our son—forever cementing my attachment to the great state of Colorado. While there is a whole lot to love about Colorado, this is the first state I’ve lived in (since getting married) that has truly felt like home. It seemed only natural that I’d tie our children’s names to the Rocky Mountains.
Bunny had been on my mind because a week or so earlier I made the mistake of leaving him behind at daycare. That night, getting Ajax to sleep was a heartbreaking process. He’s never required much to go to sleep; just a kiss and someone to toss him in his crib and walk out the door. But that night, he stood in his crib sobbing for Bunny. I tried everything I could think of, even laying down inside his crib with him to try and cuddle him to sleep, but nothing worked. He eventually cried himself to sleep as I sat outside his door feeling like a failure. Not only did I understand what it felt like to be without those things or places or people that you are attached to and make you feel secure, but I was also the one who had left Bunny behind.
Over the years, I’ve talked with counselors many times about attachments; how I attached to my parents, and how I attach to other people (or how I don't). I’ve processed how my lifestyle asks that I hold my sense of being planted and connected loosely. I make a best friend, only to move away; Uncle Sam calls. I watch my husband leave and come home and leave and come home. And even how, in motherhood, which brings with it one of the most natural and strongest attachments that exist in humanity, I had entered into this relationship scared.
My entire pregnancy with Ajax had felt like middle ground.
I was bombarded with fears and worries that I wouldn't get to meet him—this rainbow baby times two. Many times during my pregnancy, the fear of what could happen kept me from embracing special moments. I knew I was pregnant, I knew there was a little boy in there waiting to be born, but I just couldn’t push past the mountain of fear that taunted me.
From the moment Ajax was born and laying on my chest, I felt that I needed to ask if I could touch him.
I had not planned for Bunny to be my son’s favorite; it was supposed to be Fox. But as most of the best connections happen—especially ones with stuffed animals—they just ... happen, or perhaps are divinely appointed. It didn’t really matter to me why my son attached to Bunny. I just wanted him to never be without it again. So I bought the same woodland bunny in that store in Aspen, hoping it would serve as an acceptable stunt double should we ever accidentally leave Bunny at daycare again.
From the day I placed it in his hands, Ajax always knew the difference between Bunny and what he began to call Other Bunny. Ajax would often say I have two bunnies with pride and joy, but Bunny—the real, authentic, original Bunny—was the only one that he looked for when he needed comfort or sleep.
We were headed to Yosemite the morning we lost him. I was upset as we were leaving, probably because of something really important like the car not being packed how I felt it should be. And because of that, I didn't go into the donut shop with my husband and Ajax to pick out donuts for our trip. I didn’t even know Ajax took Bunny in to see all the donuts.
I didn't see Bunny fall.
I didn't know we had left Bunny behind.
We were only gone for three nights, but it was three nights without cell phone service. And it took four nights to realize where we had left Bunny. When I called the donut shop five mornings later to ask about Bunny, they said they had found him, but they had thrown him out because I hadn’t called sooner. I immediately tried to track down the garbage disposal company to find out what route they were on, but by the time I got on the phone with the sweet, kind lady at the landfill, I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.
Hi, I’m trying to track down my son’s stuffed animal. He would be on the commercial garbage route that picked up trash off of Fremont this morning.
Oh honey, it’s gone.
It’s not even possible to come look? I’ll dig through trash …
No sweetie, it’s gone. I am so sorry.
Bunny was gone.
I cried first for my son—because I knew how much he would miss Bunny—and then I kept crying. I couldn’t protect my son from feeling the pain of loss, and I was angry that I knew that pain so well. From lost pregnancies to saying goodbye to a life and friends and starting over, I know the sting of a broken attachment all too well. The image of Bunny sitting in a landfill—surrounded by trash, lonely and desolate—felt cruel and vivid.
And it hurt both of us.
Over a year later, Other Bunny is not called Other Bunny anymore; just Bunny.
Every once in a while, Ajax will look in my eyes as I’m about to kiss him goodnight—and without bitterness or anger—ask, “What color was the garbage truck who took bunny?” and “What adventures do you think he’s going on?” and we get to share in that experience together.
While I can’t truthfully say that I’m grateful for the loss of Bunny, or even my own losses, what I do know—and what I can value, immensely—is the connection that emerges, often even stronger, when you’ve weathered a mountain of loss with someone.
Even if that someone is a three-year-old boy who lost his Bunny.