This Easter, my husband and I took our two children to our town’s egg hunt. We live in a city with a population of about 2000, where it isn’t unusual to see folks driving their lawnmowers to the corner store. In fact, when I was younger, we’d often ride horses to the same store and tie them up on the hitching post while we went inside to buy fifty cents worth of penny candy.
Every year, the locals donate their gently used stuffed animals for the kids to collect along with plastic eggs filled with prizes. It isn’t a grand event, but my kids love it regardless of the size of the hunt or range of potential loot.
My daughter scanned the field of colored eggs, planning her strategy. “I’m going to do it. I’m going to get an animal. I can feel it.” She beamed and readied herself as they began the countdown. At the go, she ran past all the animals and eggs in the front and sprinted for last one on the far end of the field. The animal had been placed in a plastic bag and it wasn’t until we came home that she discovered what she’d scored.
Her smile faded as she opened the bag and caught a whiff of her more-than-gently-used new friend. She pinched his fur with two fingers and lifted him out of the bag. Her lip curled as she struggled to find her smile. “He smells a little.” She leaned over him and inhaled. “He smells like smoke and . . . old stuff.” She backed away and I could see that she was disappointed, not in the prize itself but more in the way she felt toward this large stuffed dog.
My nine-year-old daughter has always been tender hearted and kind. She is the first to comfort a friend in need and often finds ways to look on the sunny side of disappointments. She asks for little when others take a lot. So I knew that my sensitive child felt horrible for her judgment of this ragamuffin old dog.
She grew quiet as she stared at him. I told her we could put him back in the bag and donate him for next year’s hunt. She gazed at his sad and dirty face. “Someone loved him once.”
I tried not to smile because I’ve often teased her about her “Toy Story” approach to her things. She is maturing physically, changing every day, but inside, she still believes that although inanimate, these toys have souls. “Do you want me to try and wash him?” I asked.
She nodded. “He needs a chance.”
So I popped the scraggly dog into the washer with a little detergent and some lemon oil and hoped for the best. After his tumble dry, he didn’t turn out so bad. Actually, he looked pretty good. He’s still a little roughed up, but his white fur shines and his smile seems just as bright. My daughter gave him to her brother who can’t seem to get enough of him. His name is now Stan, which suits him perfectly.
Often as a writer, I study people and situations—how they act and what they say. These observations trickle into my writing and help me transform the rambling voices in my head into characters. If I’m lucky, I’m able to make them believable enough that whoever reads my work sees and feels as the character does.
I’m thankful and so very blessed that my children and Stan have shown me what it takes to be of good character. They looked past something that made them uncomfortable to see possibilities. They fought for Stan and believed that everyone deserves a second chance.
Happy Easter and may you all have a day filled with more than sunshine and chocolate bunnies. And that you always remember someone else who fought for you so long ago.