Love is a funny thing.
Love starts out all beautiful, all shiny, all wonderful.
Love starts out new.
Love starts out perfect.
Then, as time goes by, love gets tarnished. Love changes. Love isn't so shiny anymore. Love becomes routine. Life takes over, and love, while still wonderful, becomes comfortable.
Love becomes flawed.
But somehow, love, real love, despite its flaws, remains perfect.
Because real love is perfectly imperfect.
Love comes in many forms.
Love is a friend.
Love is a dog.
Love is a grandparent.
Love is a mother.
Love is a father.
Love is a husband.
Love is a wife.
Love is a favorite stuffed animal.
Pinky is my daughter's best friend.
Pinky has been in our lives roughly the same amount of time that our beautiful daughter has, which is four-and-a-half years. Pinky was a gift from my sister-in-law, who is also lovingly known as, "Aunt Wee" to my children. But we received many pink stuffed animals once we gave birth to our fourth child, and only girl, so we had no reason to believe that this stuffed animal would be any more special than the rest.
After all, a stuffed animal is a stuffed animal is a stuffed animal, right?
One would think.
But one would be wrong.
Despite the fact that Pinky is a pink pig, and I have yet to meet an actual pig with soft pink fur, Pinky was made of the fluffiest, most silky, cozy fur one could ever hope for in a stuffed animal.
Pinky put all other stuffed animals to shame. When it came to snuggling, there was no contest.
Pinky always won.
My girl began to prefer, "Pink Pig" (as Bill and I very UNoriginally named her at first) over all her other stuffed animals, and she would cry if the pig did not make it into her crib at night. When I would check on her again, long after she fell asleep, I would often find her in the same position, snoring peacefully, one arm thrown around the neck of her pink best friend who was snuggled in tightly to her little body.
As my daughter learned to speak, she shortened her friend's name simply to, "Pinky", which was much more fitting. I expected her to outgrow her friend, as children are fickle and often find new favorite toys, but her love for Pinky remained.
Pinky has seen a lot of life and part of the USA, having gone on vacations with us, journeys to visit family, and trips to school. Pinky has been to the grocery store. Pinky has been to the mall.
Pinky, thanks to my daughter, has seen life.
At preschool conferences last week, as the teacher showed me examples of how my daughter has progressed in school, she handed me a paper on which my daughter had given her details about her life. On the question that asked, "Who is your best friend?" it was clear that my girl could not choose. She answered, "My family and Pinky."
I wasn't the least bit surprised.
Last night, I read my daughter a bedtime story and tucked her covers in tightly under her chin. As we chatted about her day, I got a good look at Pinky, who was lying next to her, also tucked under the covers.
To say that Pinky is actually a bright pastel pink anymore is a stretch, what with her being mostly a drab shade of gray, with a side of pink. Her fur is no longer silky smooth and fluffy, but dingy, nappy and slightly matted down in places. Her stuffing is not as robust as it was in her heyday.
I shudder to think of the germs that Pinky carries, deep within her fur.
Also? Pinky smells. Pinky smells like spit and drool.
I said to my girl, "Sweetie, Pinky's looking kinda old and dirty. Maybe I should put her in the washing machine."
"NOOOO!" my daughter shouted back at me immediately as she hugged her friend tightly.
"Why not?" I asked.
"BECAUSE. You will ruin her."
"No, I don't think she'll ruin. She'll just get cleaner."
"But why? She's not really dirty."
"Yes, she is. And she kinda smells, don't you think?"
My little girl looked at me like she had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. She hugged Pinky tighter and she sniffed her friend's head. Then she spoke confidently. "No, Mom. Pinky doesn't smell at all. I like how Pinky smells. She smells like Pinky."
It was then that I realized that my girl actually loved this stuffed toy. She cherished it and did not see its flaws. She did not think of it as the smelly, germ-filled thing that I did.
She looked at Pinky and saw love.
I know that someday she will grow up and forget about this stuffed toy. I know that it will eventually sit in a dark bin in the basement, long forgotten, until she is an adult and rediscovers her long lost, old friend. I know that she will have other best friends. Other loves. Other confidantes.
But for now, it is Pinky.
Pinky and my girl against the world.
And far be it for me to change that.
Pinky will remain as she is. Unwashed, smelly and the same.