"Change, when it comes, cracks everything open."
Dorothy Allen

Monday, July 16, 2012

Growing up and growing apart

Tonight, I realized my son is growing up.

As many of you know, Sebastian has autism.  His autism manifests in many different ways: speech and language difficulties, obsessive behaviours, interests and abilities well below what would be considered typical for his age (he will be 11 in November).

So, when I realized tonight that he has outgrown Sally, his beloved dolly, it felt like a kick to the stomach.  I was proud of him, but it made me oh so sad too.

Sally has been with us for many, MANY years.  Sally is from the movie "A Nightmare Before Christmas".  When Sebastian first watched the movie, probably about 7 years ago, he immediately loved it.  He wasn't frightened by it at all.  And he just fell head over heels for Sally, the main girl in the story.  Sally is a rag doll, put together by the mad scientist.  She is in love with Jack, the Pumpkin King, but he doesn't return the feelings until the end, when he finally realizes how amazing she is.

This is Sebastian's absolute favourite picture of Sally.
He would show me and tell me over and over again,
"The wind is blowing her hair!"
At the time, Nightmare wasn't quite as popular as it is today.  It was very, very difficult to find anything with Jack or Sally on it.  So when someone (for the life of me, I can't remember who bought her for Bastian.  It might have been Auntie Dawn, but I'm not sure.  Forgive me) found the long limbed and beautiful Sally doll, it was a real score.  Sebastian loved her from day 1.  He rarely went anywhere without her.

Through all of Sebastian's surgeries, Sally was there.  She would be wheeled into the operating room, tucked tight, tight, tight under his arm.  He would pull her in close to his face as he cried, when he was scared and frightened by the doctors he constantly had to see.   Therapists would always ask him to tell them about the pretty little doll he had with him.  His response was always to hug her close and whisper "It's Sally".  When he began to learn and explore imaginative play, it was Sally he would swing around the room, who would fight Wonder Woman.  Sally would walk and talk for Sebastian, when he was still just learning himself.  Sally travelled to PEI with us, held tight in his grip, when the plane made him nervous.  Sally went to Great Wolf Lodge for all the overnight stays.  Sally was the first in the suitcase for sleepovers at Grammie and Papa's. Whenever we went out for a drive, the last thing he would grab was Sally.  Sally went to nursery school and the NPCC with him.  His teachers knew Sally as well as we did. 
Well loved.  Her eye is worn off, her skin is bare in patches.
She is stained and worn.
I think every child's toy should be so lucky.

She was his constant, his comfort, his solid.  In a world he can't control and can barely understand, he would hold Sally to his face; smell her face, hold her corduroy hair, brush her velvety dress across his mouth and nose.  And Sally would help him block out everything he couldn't deal with. 

Next to Mommy, Sally was probably one of the most important girls in his life.

Tonight, I was tucking Sebastian in before bed.  We have a routine: pjs, bathroom, meds, bed, story, prayers, nightlight, music, sleep.  I was just putting the music and the nightlight on, when I spotted Sally, laying on the floor, just behind his toybox.  I scooped her up and went to hand her up to him (he is on a top bunk).
"Here buddy", I said, "I found Sally.  She must have fallen out of bed, when I changed the sheets yesterday".
Such a pretty lady.

Sebastian didn't even look over.  Just rolled over and yawned and said "No, that's ok.  Good night."

And that's when it hit me.  He doesn't need her any more.

I started to remember all the things that he has done lately, and Sally wasn't there.  All the nights that he had gone to bed, and I found her later, tucked in a basket or a corner somewhere.  I tried to remember the last time he had actually asked for her, and I couldn't remember.

It makes me happy that he has outgrown her.  It really does.  I won't have the awkward conversation when he is 16 and going to high school and wanting to take Sally along for the ride.  :)

But it makes me sad too.  Sally was so much a part of all of our lives.  She deserves to be loved and cherished for so many more years to come. I keep thinking of Buzz and Woody and all the forgotten toys from the Toy Story movies (I bawled my eyes out in the last one, when Andy gives the toys away.  SOBBED!).

Of course, Sally will always have a home here.  I will never, ever give her away.  I will keep it for the day that I maybe have grandchildren of my own.  They can know that Sally was Uncle Sebastian's, and play with her, just like he used to.  Until then, I will keep her safe and warm and loved.

But I don't think I can ever replace that pure, sweet love that he gave her.  I can't ever duplicate that.

Rosie N. Grey
The N stands for "new life for an old toy."


  1. I felt that way about La-La. Seeing her shoved down the side of his bed. Each time I'd change the sheets I'd put her front and center inbetween his pillows and I'd find her crammed down the side of his bed. I still have her. Tucked away. La-La all worn and patched up.

  2. Oh, poor La-La. It's one of the saddest things...it seems silly but I actually cried a little.

  3. oh it is sad when they go through these growing up stages, my eldest used to have a little stuffed sheep that went everywhere with her, and was still tucked up in her bed for years, in fact I think he went on school camps secretly tucked in the bottom of the bag....then he just ended up under the bed with the shoes one day and was never needed again

    1. Hi Katrina, thanks for the comment! based on the conversations I have had, I think it's harder on us parents than it is on the kids. we are the ones that get all sentimental!

  4. Clare has a kitty. Once we left her in a mall, and I had to go to each store and find her. Now, she is frequently tucked beside the bed, and I too take her out and put her front and centre on the bed! LOL I love that kitty, even though Clare doesn't ask for her anymore, I always keep an eye out for her, and will eventually put her away for when she is older and wants her again!

    1. I think everyone has a little something. It's a magical bond. I had my Snoopy dog. I should say, I still have my Snoopy dog. :)