I could feel my heart sink and anxiety start to prickle at the edges of my consciousness. Of course that particular store in this mall had to be right next to the only place that I buy jeans. For a moment I debated going home, destined to spend an eternity borrowing clothes from my older daughter....or at least until she outgrows me (which could be tomorrow at the rate she's going). But, that would be foolish. Living in a relatively rural part of the country means that when you're in the city, you have to shop and normally, that's not such a bad thing. I gave myself a brief pep talk and began pushing Tatyanna's wheel chair with determined steps, hoping beyond anything that she wouldn't notice the sunny, yellow glow emanating from the source of my unease . It used to be her favourite place in the world. When we lived in Edmonton she would spy it from the upper concourse of the mall and make a mad dash for the nearest escalator yelling "I'm going to Build-a-bear....to make-a-bear!!!" She didn't care if she wasn't getting a bear, she just loved the process. The picking of the outer layer, the fluffing machine that stuffed the chosen companion to the perfect level of huggability and the kissing of the heart and making a wish before the new friend was sewn up, ready for dressing. She kissed a lot of hearts. I think most of our menagerie of build-a-bears contains more than one. Her eyes would sparkle as she danced through the store eagerly helping to chose the perfect outfit and accessories. The shoes were her favourite. A girl after my own heart, it didn't matter if they didn't have underwear...the outfit wasn't complete without an awesome (or is it pawsome?) pair of shoes.
I wasn't sure which would be worse, if she saw the store and didn't react at all, or if she did. At first I thought we were going to make it by without incident. Tatyanna's attention was caught by something on the opposing side and it wasn't until we were almost clear that her head turned. A veiled look of recognition crossed her face as she peered hard into the interior of the shop.
"Look! It's Build-a-bear! Wanna go in?" I asked, trying desperately to keep my voice cheery. Drawing on some apparently vast internal reserve of strength we made it past the helpful store staff and down the row of bins full of waiting animals. They finally have the pony. It was only out in select stores during the "old days", and we kept waiting for it's arrival, knowing that it would have been Tatyanna's new favourite. But the release date kept getting pushed back, and then it just didn't matter anymore.
It wasn't until we hit the fluffing machine, with the bin of hearts waiting to be kissed that the sense of loss came crashing in around me. Apparently, while vast, my reserves are also shallow. Tatyanna stared hard at the swirling fluff and I could feel my heart shatter once again. It was as if she was remembering. Remembering a time when things were better, when she could dance and sing and kiss hearts and make wishes. But with the expression of nostalgia there was also confusion. As if those past times were maybe a dream and perhaps never really happened at all. As if she couldn't comprehend how she had gotten from there to here.
It was all I could take, I think I fled the store fast enough that the employees checked for fires and counted their inventory after I left.
I hate Batten Disease. I hate that it is stealing our little girl before our eyes. I hate that remembering the fun times of days gone by is now done with a smile on my lips and tears running down my cheeks. I hate that every day, I have to pick up the pieces of my heart over and over again. But, I do. I hold my head up and keep going. I pick up the pieces and try to make our life the best it can be. Sometimes it works, sometimes I just really want to go back to a time when my little girl could kiss a heart or two.