Over the past (almost) two years since Kali has been in America she has had countless stuffed animals, chew toys, balls of all size, frisbees, and various and sundry other objects intended to distract, challenge, or please her.
Countless hundreds of dollars have been spent at the pet store in an effort to give her things to stimulate her, engage her, and make her happy.
The flaw in this dynamic of gift giving to express love is that Kali could give a hoot. About the gift, not the love…. Like a lot of people Kali likes the thought (smell) of a new toy and the anticipation (let me taste it) of playing with a new [insert your favorite pastime here]. But really what Kali wants most is to be with me.
“But Kali”, I say, “I love you and want you to have things. This is what people do; how we express love. We give gifts and take great joy in the faces of the recipients who we love so much.
“OK Dad”, Kali seems to say. “I’ll take that new fuzzy toy from your hand but you know that for the most part I just want to be with you, go for walks, and return home to hang out with you in the backyard. I know you like me to be outside after our walks so that when I gulp down the quart of water I don’t slobber half of it in the house on the tile and carpet. I’m ok with that because as long as I’m with you life is good and toys are a mere extravagance more suited for human toddlers. Which of course I will love if your children ever give you the grand babies you long for. See Dad, you never told me that but I can tell you really want a grandchild and I would like to see you have one or two because I love babies and children. Maybe they might want all the toys you’ve given me over the years that I don’t play with? I would be totally ok with sharing.”
Random reader of this blog post: “Ok, we get it Mike. Kali loves you and doesn’t really care about toys”.
And then there was Christmas 2015 when I gave Kali a fluffy little Elf toy. It was loosely wrapped so that she could open it. Using her teeth and paws she removed the wrapping paper and the Elf emerged. SHE LOVED IT!! She loved it like no toy she had ever had before. After a few minutes chewing the Elf outside the reach of little brother Smokey and the rest of the clan she came back into the circle and proudly showed off her new toy. For the rest of the day, weeks and since then still Kali favors this toy above the others.
I’m not sure what it is about Mr. Elf, but Kali is very possessive of this toy and it is usually the first one she brings to me when she wants to engage in play. It makes me happy to see her happy and even now that Mr. Elf has only one leg and has lost most of his stuffing Kali still loves him as much as on Christmas day when she unwrapped him.
We all have our Mr. Elfs. As kids and as adults. Who is your Mr. Elf?
Sleep tight Mr. Elf