Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pink Bunny

[what's brewing: a warm cup of comfort]

Soft, and a bit raggedy now, Pink Bunny has holes poked through her loosely knit frame and bares some frayed edges where she’s been pulled across the ever emerging teeth of my darling niece. My sister has sent videos of Pink Bunny being transported around the house in Nora’s mouth as she scoots herself from one room to the other. In this stage of separation anxiety, Pink Bunny seems to be the only one capable of consoling Nora in her mother’s absence. Apparently Donald Winnicott knew what he was talking about when he introduced the concept of a transitional object to the world of psychology.

In a child’s world, a transitional object is an item that serves a soothing function during the time that they are moving from complete dependence to growing independence. Their perception of themselves and the world around them changes, but the object remains constant. It’s been around awhile, it smells like home, it’s available even in the absence of anything else familiar. It brings comfort to the child, especially during times of change or stress. Some of this sounds quite familiar…

Here in this foreign land, I find myself being comforted by the “transitional objects” of my adult world. Prior to leaving, I carefully selected the items I would bring with me – a tattered copy of A Severe Mercy, treasured photographs, a letter of blessing from my mother that lives inside the cover of my Bible, a candle with a fragrance that seems to fill the room with fall leaves, pumpkin pie and apple cider. Each one of these things reminds me of the comfort and familiarity that was our life in the US. There are moments when I have felt like a small child who’s been separated from her proverbial mother who signifies the stability and familiarity of my comfort zone.

And just as Pink Bunny reminds my niece that not everything has changed in her moments of insecurity, so my own transitional objects provide a sense of comfort in this new place.

The moving words of an oft read book strike me just the same here as they did in my old bedroom. Favorite passages and verses, underlined and annotated in my English Bible, bring the same, if not more, peace and inspiration as I read them here on my couch. God’s word, a gift to humankind, has proven to be the ultimate transitional object for this girl who’s ventured beyond the borders of her home country into the absence of anything familiar.

What are the “transitional objects” in your life? Have they lost their comforting ability over time, or do they still impart a sense of calmness after years on the field?


Trailblazer said...

I'm new to this site, but I was moved by the blog you wrote Coffeegirl... My family and I have been evacuated from our host country twice in the past year. The first time was for a medical evacuation (4 months in the U.S.), and more recently because of war. We are back in the U.S. on a 4 month home assignment. It's been a roller coaster year, with no more than 2 months in any one place. When we returned home this time, my mom gave us 5 of her quilts to use for the summer. They are family quilts, made by her grandmas and my dad's grandma. Besides their beauty and practicality, there are "pioneer" stories of courage and a heritage of faith that are attached to the people who made them. Our Heavenly Father gives good "Daddy" blessing to us children doesn't He? Just what we need. I love the serendipity of some of His little blessings!

Ellie said...

I was pretty tiny when we began to move, and we just kept moving. Place to place, country to country, house to house.

My parents bought me a sleeping bag. All of us got them. Mine was warm and fuzzy on the inside, not the nylon slippery things they sell now, but more like a flannel inside. My sleeping bag went through all the moves with us. Not much else did. Not many toys, not many books, not many friends, not much of anything.

But I had my sleeping bag. When we were on the road, it was zipped up and rolled. When we settled for awhile, it was unzipped and used as my comforter. I snuggled in it at night, or on it depending on how hot it was. It was just there.

Then, one move. We moved "back home". To a country that I had only been in once, and never lived in. To a town I had never seen. We unpacked, and it was not until then that I noticed... where is my sleeping bag?!

My mom brushed it off happily, "oh, well I left it behind. We don't need it now; we can get new ones."

I still miss it.

I'm too old; I was too old then to be allowed to miss it. I have searched stores, but there is none like mine. I still miss it. I was not given the chance to chose, to agree, to even know.

I'm too old for blankies and stuffed animals. So I collect a few things, funny things. Something someone gave me, memories of friends. Notes in my bible, "Hey Ellie, stop by my room after class, I have chocolate!" I've found smaller things are harder to get left behind.

And eventually, some of these things lose enough of their value that I am able to set them down. Others don't.

I think having some things to hang on to make letting go of other things easier.

(but, parents, don't give away your child's transition object just because you think they don't need it)

Bakingfreak said...

I have a brown furry plaid and it has traveled over the ocean with me, it makes me feel at home. I got it from my mom and it is like a little piece of home that I carry with me over the globe. :-)
Things like that are important, I've heard of a lady carrying little blue curtains everywhere she went on the missionfield, for years!!

Rachel said...

Thanks for the post and for the comments! I'm just getting ready to head overseas and have been pondering this question of what is reasonable to take that will be comforting and familiar. I'd love to know what small things are comforting reminders of home to others of you. :)

Becky Aguirre said...

Last year we came home from the mission field for a few months to have our 4th child and to attend a family reunion and then circumstances were such that we did not return! My husband went back by himself to pack up our house...since there was very little that he could bring back with him, I lost most of what had become special and comforting to me. Now we are headed to another field of service this week and I have my favorite coffee mugs, a beautiful lamp given to me by a friend, a jewelry box from another friend, and some of that wonderful-smelling liquid handsoap from Bath and Body Works that I will be taking with me for my "comfort" items.

I appreciated your comment, Ellie, as it reminds me to be sensitive to my kids needs as we face yet another transition!

Coffeegirl said...

Good morning, friends. It's been a difficult week here and I've had trouble getting online in the midst of it all. I am so glad to see your comments waiting here this morning. I love getting a sense of the special items that somehow reach beyond their physical value to bring comfort. Ellie, I like what you mentioned about some items eventually losing their value while others last. It's hard to predict which ones won't lose their value and decide what to take with, which is what makes preparation for the field such an interesting process.

Like Becky, I have my favorite coffee mugs here as well as Bath and Body Works soap and lotion! I've been thinking about the concept of creating a personal sanctuary space in my life, and interestingly many of the items I brought with me are the things that help me to create a peaceful place to let my soul rest. A favorite mug in hand, an blanket wrapped around my legs, reading a few verses from a book of prayer I brought with, my journal, my Bible with worn-in pages and favorite passages marked. So Rachel, I would encourage you to think along those lines too - what things help you to feel at rest when you have moments for yourself? What do you look forward to the most about different holidays or seasons of the year? Bring some things along that allow you to recreate those moments overseas!

Alan & Beth McManus said...

I thought I didn't have any comfort items until you mentioned Christmas in your comments. Christmas is huge to me. I love the tree, lights, decorating, baking, etc. I have saved ornaments that we made or were given from all the way back when I was a baby. Each year my boys and I make or get a new one (often typical ones we find in the market). We have so many now that I string them up and down the stairs as well as putting them on the tree. Each time we decorate for Christmas I go through the memories with the kids and tell them the stories all over again.

On another note, each of our boys has a "blanky" that has gone with them since they were teeny. I made the mistake of making my oldest pass on his "manky" (short for "my blanky") to his brother. He never used it and was too "old" for it. Then, when Grama bought our youngest his own blanky, Cameron claimed it back. I hadn't realized it was so important! These are not just blankets, they are superman capes, tents, rugs, curtains, and anything else they come up with.

Becky Aguirre said...

I am now spending the second night in our new home on the mission field and it was interesting to see what caused the most excitement to unpack...the things I mentioned earlier, but also some unexpected items such as my refrigerator magnets, my good kitchen shears (that I thought I had forgotten), some souvenirs from other countries where we've lived, some rocks that we picked up as a family at Lake Michigan this summer, and my coffee maker of course! It was comforting to see some familiar items again and to hang my own curtains at the window.


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