Lord, why didn't you tell me that we were leaving Scruffy Barney behind in the changing rooms after Katy's swimming lesson this morning? Why didn't you send a vast neon finger to point at him, or give me some subtle intimation that I should retrace my steps before we climbed in the car? If ever there was a moment when a touch of the supernatural might have helped, this was it, surely?
Why, when you are all-seeing and all-knowing, do you watch with interest to see what will happen instead of preventing such catastrophes from taking place in the first place?
I am sure that you've been asked that question a time or two, and in situations very much more disastrous than the mislaying of Katy's Special Thing. It's just that (she protests) it would make my life sooo much easier if we could just stop losing the stupid stuffed purple one. I could claim back hours of my life spent searching high and low for him. Lots of phone minutes trying to discern who saw him last and if anyone handed him in.
As bedtime approaches I find myself getting more and more apprehensive. I was out this afternoon with my Mum and an ominous text beeped from my phone.
'Is Scruffy in the car?'
Oh no. Of course he wasn't. I knew instantly where he was and I was the last one out of the changing rooms this morning so it was my fault. Well, of course, he belongs to Katy, and she insisted in bringing him to swimming against advice, so I could try pointing the finger at her, but I'd be wasting your time. She just looks at me with big eyes and a trembling chin and I blame myself instantly. Again.
Sigh. So Scruffy is languishing in the lost property box on the other side of town when he should be waiting on Kate's pillow, floppy and grubby and less-than-fragrant, completely taken for granted but very, very much loved.
Poor little Katy. Will it teach her a lesson about looking after her things? Will she now hold onto Barney more tightly and remember to check she's got him? Who am I kidding? Do life's little disasters teach me much about taking care/paying attention/anything else? How many times do you have to remind me about the most basic of things? How many simple things do I mess up over and over again? I suppose being four years old is much more of an excuse for not learning from one's mistakes. Being forty-one less so.
How many times have we chased Scruffy Barney about? From how many places has he been retrieved? How many times have we said to a wobbly-chinned Katy, 'It looks as if you've really lost him this time', only to discover him in the gutter/up a tree/in the supermarket/garden centre/car park/fridge? (He was lost but now is found)...
We've had tears. Big, tear-filled eyes, mournful expression and a whole-body sort of sadness that breaks your heart. Oh dear.
So it's nearly bath time. Katy has had extra chocolate to compensate her for the shock of realising that Barney is Not Coming Home Tonight, and she's had an exciting half hour in the garden with Daddy and his telescope looking at the stars in subzero conditions. (This was apparently going well until Elizabeth borrowed a torch from Grandma and thought it would be a good idea to shine it through the other end of the telescope thus temporarily blinding Daddy and putting an end to any chance of spotting a minor constellation for a while. Rumour has it that he couldn't find his way to the back door, let alone Cassiopeia, but that's by the way.)
So we've distracted her and cajoled her and she'll be in the bath in a minute and she always loves her bath. Then it's story time and snuggle time and it'll be then that we grind to a halt and face up to the absence of Scruffy.
Pop in then, would you, Father God? Just fill the little gap that there'll be in Katy's left hand, next to her face, while she sucks the thumb on her right hand. Send your Holy Spirit, because I reckon it's just the job for him. Take away her sadness and give her your peace. Keep her company, hold her close and when she wakes in the night cuddle her back to sleep, please.
Help me to stop feeling so guilty.
And finally, Lord, I know where the lost property box is. It's in the foyer near the door and (ahem) Scruffy Barney's going to be a bit cold tonight. Keep him warm, will you?
And tell him that we'll be coming for him first thing on Monday.