Family Ties

Sammy is sleeping now. He looks so peaceful. Earlier today, he was sobbing as though he was hurting all over. As though it was me that had made him hurt all over.

His first tantrum in his lifetime of a year and a half. Was it because of that toy?

When I was carrying him, I had taken to going on long walks in the woods. During these walks, I would prepare myself mentally for what I was going to tell Sammy (I had decided on his name long before I even thought of having him) when he asked me who his father was.

I didn’t know too much about the donor myself.  I knew that he was 5’ 10’’, of German descent, his blood group was B+ve, and that he had a degree in Chemistry – I wanted at least a small shot at having a kid smarter than me.

The doctor at the bank had told me that four was a good age to tell a child about his/her origins. But I hadn’t made up my mind about whether I was going to tell Sammy any of this.

The day I found the toy, I felt good. I had spent the afternoon buying bed-time story-books for Sammy and it was such a magnificent day. The sky was a striking blue and a soft breeze was making a wind vane whir about behind me.

The path I was on curved to give way to a narrow road but then I noticed a bridge to my left; one I had never seen before. It was almost as if it were hiding something. It was surrounded by wet mud but I decided that getting to the other side of the bridge was worth the effort and I walked through the mud. I came to a mini forest of sorts. There were trees all around. It had gotten windier and as the trees danced with the wind, I thought they were alive, talking amongst themselves. Two lines of barbed wire ran across on one side, almost embedded in the ground and next to them was a long hedge. A lake stood still nearby, reflecting this secret place.

I was beginning to feel a little pleased with myself. I had crossed over from a tarred road into total wilderness. Then I found that the wilderness wasn’t as forgotten a world as I had expected it to be; there were fresh foot-prints in the mud – people walking their dogs probably. But right then, there was no one there; just me and the trees, and the lake.

I saw the clock first: a blue rusted artefact. I checked my watch – it was four-thirty. The clock seemed to be stuck but the hands showed four-thirty as well. Normally, I would have been disturbed by this coincidence, but I don’t know what it was about that place. I just felt very peaceful. I placed the clock back exactly as I had found it.

There were small porcelain objects lying all around; the kind that you would put in your bathroom or in your garden: simple statues of a boy and a girl holding hands; a cow wearing a dress. The tree closest to me had wall hangings nailed on its bark: little nothings from Christmas – a bell shaped photo frame, a Santa Claus hat, paper mistletoe.

Someone had lost something here. Or someone. I closed my eyes and said a small prayer. I had a strong feeling that I would have liked whoever had been lost. I felt an intense affection towards him/her; as though this person was very familiar to me. I didn’t want to leave.

It was then that my glance fell over the statue of a small, grinning sheep in a kilt. It seemed to be in perfect condition. My first instinct told me to reach out for it and put it in my pocket. I did as my instinct commanded. Once I had the toy, a souvenir of this place, I felt ready to go home and started walking back.

The air was still, the wind vane had stopped. I saw a fox, running across the field. He was really far off but I stopped to look him. The fox, he stopped too! And he stood there in the middle of that large field and stared at me. For a moment, I thought he was going to start chasing me but as I started walking again, he ran away in the direction of the small forest I had just come from.

I was a little scared but then I thought of the toy I had just found and felt calm again. When I went home, I washed the sheep and placed it on my book shelf.

After that evening, every time I went out for an evening walk, a fox would appear out of nowhere and follow me from a distance for a few minutes. It was always just for a few minutes and he would always run away after. It took me a while to connect him with the toy but when he appeared again and again, weeks on end, I began to wonder if he wanted me to return the toy to its rightful owner.

But I couldn’t bear to even think of such a thing.

Before I found the toy, I had all sorts of questions about whether I would be a good mother, if I would be able to love my son unconditionally or if I was just doing this for having an interesting experience. It would be so difficult to be a single mother without any help. Was I going to be able to see it through till the end?

The toy silenced all my insecurities. It made me feel positive and strong, like I wasn’t alone.

I found the fox more curious than scary. He always maintained a good distance and I imagine he just wondered why I was keeping something that didn’t belong to me. I got used to him appearing on my walks and even began to think of him as a friend.

After Sammy was born, I took him with me on my walks and the fox continued to visit us.

This afternoon, I had placed the toy on the dining table after dusting it. Sammy had gotten hold of it for the first time. I watched him play with it and he looked delighted. I was scared he might break it, so I took it away. But he started crying like he wasn’t going to stop. I had no choice but to give the toy back to him. He stopped crying in an instant.

On our walk today, Sammy was still holding on to the toy in his pram. The fox arrived as usual. I smiled at him. He stared back. Then he walked away. Something told me that I wouldn’t seem him again.

When we arrived back at home, I put Sammy to bed. But it’s close to 1 a.m now and I still can’t sleep so I’m in Sammy’s room with the toy, watching him sleep instead.

I hadn’t really thought about the toy that much before. I had just accepted it as a simple, good luck charm. But today’s events have filled me with questions. The fox’s behavior was very unusual. It was only when Sammy had the toy, that the fox walked way and now my imagination of the fox wanting me to return the toy to its rightful owner has failed.

I look at the toy, begging for clues. But the sheep just stares back at me lifeless, grinning as always. And now I can’t stop thinking about this grinning sheep and that beautiful, strange place that I had picked it from.

Why was it important? Why had the fox taken one look at Sammy holding the toy, and walked away quietly? What was it about Sammy that had convinced him to just let us be?

Sammy lets out a small sigh. What do toddlers dream about?

Sammy. Sammy. Sammy was born at four-thirty. The same time I had picked up the toy. Why doesn’t that still upset me? Why does that silly toy make my son and me, both feel so damn comforted. The sort of familiar affection you could only feel for very close family…

Damnit, Sammy, what am I going to tell you when you ask me who your father is?

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