The Extended Family (or…The ‘Comforters’)

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Here is a photo of our extended family. The comforters. Those things we have helped our children develop a love for and bond with over the years, only to get to a point where actually you question whether the disadvantages start to outweigh the advantages. Yes they are helpful to settle a restless child, or to help them get to sleep at night, but they are certainly of no hope whatsoever when you are tucking a child in bed at night and it is not there and you have to spend 20 minutes searching the house for it, getting ready to go out for the day, packing up to go on holiday, or when simply, they just aren’t there to help because they have been left somewhere they shouldn’t have been (yes, external to the madhouse).

In our madhouse, with 4 children, we have had, and still have our fair share of comforters, and stories that go with them

Let me introduce them. All 10 of them.

Geoffrey, Spare Geoffrey, Emergency (or ‘Mergency’) Geoffrey, Bramley, Bunny, Seal, Brown Dog, Brown Bear (original names those), Neddy and Blue Bear.

With my first born, I never really knew about the comforter until a friend visited with her baby who had her own ‘Geoffrey’ who she was enjoying snuggling. Ooh how cute, he is nice and soft, where did you get him from? So the next day I was in the same shop buying our own Geoffrey. He was a hit, as was Bramley who was given as a birth present and I decided he would be the other comforter, and soon, sure enough, they were our extended family.

Imagine this then, two years down the line. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was at home going through the ‘milk routines’, looking after the babies, and my husband pops to the shops with the toddler. He comes home an hour or so later. Well Mummy, we have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is we lost Geoffrey. The good news is that the department store still had him in stock so we have a new one. I was aghast. Yes, quick thinking husband and luckily for you, you managed to pull that one off with the toddler, but that’s not going to work with me. Where is the real Geoffrey? My mind was full of thoughts of him lying there, alone, being trodden on by shoppers, never to feel the love he once had felt again. I was heartbroken. So. I jumped in the car and set about retracing the steps my husband and toddler had done a few hours earlier. I trudged around, eyes searching like a mad woman, from Fat Face to Thorntons with no luck. How many times could I keep doing this. I stopped, turned around, and then there, as if it was meant to be, was Geoffrey stretched out on the stand-up sign advertising the BHS cafe. My heart leapt. Relief. After a quick call to the husband which no doubt irritated him as obviously it was followed with comments like, well you just couldn’t have looked properly, I arrived home with Geoffrey, the original. But now we had welcomed ‘Mergency’ Geoffrey into our homes too.

Now Spare Geoffrey was just that. A spare, who was kept at my parents house, hidden in a cupboard, for emergencies, where toddler boy used to spend his days when I was working before my second stint of having babies. It wasn’t long after the arrival of Emergency Geoffrey that Spare Geoffrey was discovered, and begrudgingly welcomed into the extended family. Great.

Whist preparing for the arrival of my babies,  I spent a great deal of time in Mothercare choosing 2 comfort toys for each boy. These were allocated at birth and stayed with them during their time in SCBU and hospital. Welcome to the world Bunny (his companion, Monkey, was never accepted and now lives in the pile of teddies in a drawer somewhere, and was replaced by an old souvenir of mine from a Seal Santuary, Seal), Neddy and Blue Bear, and Brown Bear and Brown Dog.

Brown Dog had his own adventure when his master, T2, was transferred to a different SCBU for an operational procedure during his first few days of life. He went by ambulance with T2 to Wolverhampton for a city break, and myself and my husband couldn’t go, but Brown Dog did, and watched over him. When T2 returned after a successful city break, Brown Dog didn’t. The staff knew of his importance and finally tracked him down and he was returned.

Neddy and Blue Bear have a story too. When packing up from holidays, we are usually so meticulous about checking we have everything. However on a recent holiday, we were so desperate to ‘JUST GET IN THE CAR AND DRIVE’ that somehow Neddy and Blue Bear were overlooked in the final check and cross check, and were left hiding in a cupboard. When we realised this, a few hours later, we all felt so sad. Luckily my parents were still at the holiday village for another week and managed to locate them the next day (but it was a long 24 hours, I’ll tell you that), and Neddy and Blue Bear spent the rest of the week on holiday with the grandparents (as we just couldn’t trust the post) and we were sent photos of them having a great time, accompanied by postcards. As Neddy and Blue Bear’s master was older at this time, we managed to pull that one off for a few days.

So that is our extended family. The comforters. Some, just bits of tatty material and not much stuffing, but they have been on our journey. They have shared the memories, the love and tears of our children, and they are just that…part of the family.

As a child (well, 14), I only know too well the feeling of losing one. Pinkie Ted (also aged 14). After a wonderful day at a zoo on a family holiday, we returned to the hotel, tucked ourselves into bed, only to have it dawn on us the Pinkie Ted was missing. It was a long restless night for all of us. We suspected that Pinkie had been taken by the housemaids when they changed the sheets. Sure enough, and to everyone’s relief, there was Pinkie sitting on the shelf in reception in the morning, nice and fresh after undergoing the complete laundry procedure.

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I still have Pinkie now. My husband doesn’t let him anywhere near the bed (‘Get that germ ridden thing out of here’), but he still sits there, holding my love and tears from over the years, watching over me.

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