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Saturday. Late morning. We arrive at Turtle Pond. Two girls smile and skip. The grass is green and ready for us. Sunshine shimmies above, and around. We find a spot, a good spot, under a big tree. We spread out a blanket, plaid, and sit. We unwrap sandwiches Daddy made. Turkey and cheese. Little ones sip from juice boxes. At lunch with us? A tiny stuffed turtle named Tuck. A little stuffed bunny named Ruby. Lucky guests at our family picnic.

Big girl stands and does the pee dance. I have to go potty! A strong guy, her father, scoops her up. Little girl chants, Coming too! This mother sits on picnic plaid, amid turkey shreds and bread crumbs and watches her creatures go. Little legs wrapped around a broad and tapering torso, feet kicking, hands flailing, dangling turtle and bunny. Bye bye, Mommy! Sweet words trail them.

Soon, they are back. And big girl is wet with tears. Her turtle is gone. Went swimming in a feces-coated Central Park public toilet. Was rescued briefly only to make a swift plunge into the trash. This girl is inconsolable. She collapses onto this mother's lap, shaking with sobs. And we stand and walk to the dock. To see the ducks and the turtles and the life.

We will get a new Tuck, this mother says, foolishly says. It will be exactly the same.

Behind her simple and desperate words of reassurance, this one mother wonders about something big. Loss. It will happen. It will happen with things more consequential than tiny turtles. It will happen with things and creatures and places that cannot be replaced. This mother knows this, and deeply, because she has lost things. Important things.

But for now. This is hard enough. A little girl quaking at the loss of a friend. An untimely goodbye. A small and cruel snapshot of what's to come.

She is okay. I am okay.

(Are we ever really okay?)

It's just a toy turtle. It's not just a toy turtle.

(Is it ever just a toy turtle?)

I love you, Toddler. You are my brilliant babe, so strong and so sensitive, keen already to the lessons life has no choice but to teach us.

R.I.P. Tuck (#1)

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  • Did you lose any cherished toys as a child? Have your children lost anything dear to them? How did you deal?
  • Do you agree that life is a constant lesson in love and longing and loss?
  • Do you think Husband did the right thing by tossing Tuck? (At first, I thought the poop-slicked little guy should have been brought home for a bath.)
  • Do these tiny tragedies make you think about the bigger instances of loss in your life or is it just me?

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