Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Homeward Bound

The drive from Regina to Calgary is a little over seven hours, and Scarlett took it upon herself to make sure Sully didn’t enjoy any of those hours too much. She has come to the [correct] conclusion that you don’t need to be all that creative to drive someone up the wall, you just have to be persistent. You don’t need a new schtick every five minutes; in fact, it’s better if you don’t. It's infinitely more effective to use the same one over and over.  Repetition is key. 

So this was her thing: she’d brought her favorite stuffy along with us on the trip, and she’d wave it in front of Sully’s face and ask, “What this guy’s name again?” 

Sully would reply, “Brutus. It says so on the tag.”

And she’d say, “Oh, right. I forgot.”

And then two minutes later, “What’s this guy’s name again?”

And Sully’d say, “You already know.”

And she’d say, “No I don’t! I don’t remember! Please tell me!”

And he’d say, “It’s Brutus.”

“Oh, right. I forgot. …Wait, what is it again?”

Simple. Elegant. Seemingly innocent, yet devious. Sully was about to blow a fuse by the time we hit Medicine Hat. Brutus, a Ty Beanie Boo boxer with glittering golden eyes, had become the bane of his existence. Everyone in the car was wishing we’d flown to Calgary.

But, against all odds, we made it to the city without too much screaming from the back seat. 

Calgary was fun. I should blog about it. Drank good coffee, saw some sights with our friend Jason. And when he asked us if we would like to go climb a mountain, we excitedly agreed—the kids had never even seen a mountain, I told him. The kids saw a garbage pile in Regina once and thought that was a mountain. This experience, I said, accidentally prophesying a little bit, was going to rock their worlds.

Jason is a guy who rides bikes in the mountains; he is well-acquainted with trails. He took us to an easy one with a great view at the end, about an hour out of the city. The kids absolutely loved it, hiking through the largest [only] forest they’d ever seen, up and up and up, into a thick cloud. Scarlett had Brutus tucked into the neck of her t-shirt, and she was pointing things out to him, clutching my hand tightly, a little nervous that we might see a bear. 

The top of the mountain was very nice. We all liked it. 

“What’s this mountain made of?” Sully asked, very impressed. “Did a person make this?”

My kids: even less outdoorsy than me! An incredible feat. 

There was a gentle slope downward, and then a less-gentle cliff, even more downward. We walked carefully down the gentle slope toward the less-gentle cliff. 


Most of us walked carefully. Because most of us had a handle on mountain concepts such as cliffs, gravity, certain death. 

Scarlett, understandably, didn’t. In her head, she was invincible. Barclay and I had to repeatedly remind her that she couldn’t go near the cliff. She had to stop trying to run up here. 

No, seriously, Scarlett, stop.


Barclay was being very attentive; Scarlett would start to be careless, he would reach out and remind her to be careful, hold her still, show her the cliff, the line she could not cross. She would say, “Oh yeah, I forgot, I’ll be careful,” and then she would forget immediately. It was like the car ride to Calgary. 

“I forget, what’s his name again?”

It happened in slow motion—I’m not making this up, it really did. She started toward the cliff, Barclay reached out and stopped her. She pitched forward. Barclay, in his infinite wisdom, had drawn the line she could not cross farther back than really necessary, so she had room to fall and still not come too close to the edge.

But poor—what was his name again? Oh yes, Brutus—was still tucked into the neck of her t-shirt, and when she pitched forward, he was propelled toward the sharp drop-off with shocking momentum. 

He bounced once. I had time to think, “Oh no, he—what’s his name again? Oh right, Brutus!—he’s going over.” 

He bounced again. I had time to look at Scarlett’s face, to make sure Barclay was holding her tight so she wouldn’t follow her best friend over the side of the mountain. He was. Her face was very sad to look at. Suddenly she got it; she understood what we'd been saying the whole time about the cliff being a point of no return. I looked back at the dog.

Brutus bounced a third time. I had time to hope he would stop moving forward. 

He didn’t. 

I have an intensely vivid memory of him disappearing over the edge, frame by frame.

We all stood there in stunned silence. Or—no, wait, not silence. The opposite of silence. Scarlett was screaming. 

I immediately pictured the doll I lost as a kid in the Bargain! Bargain! Bargain! The Bargain Shop parking lot in Shaunavon when I was five. (My mom will tell you this is not where I lost that doll; she insists it happened in Swift Current. Doesn’t really matter. Agree to disagree, Mom. You’re probably right, but my memory will not adjust.)

Anyway! The point is, I pictured that doll, and I remembered how heartbroken I was when I lost her, and how I thought of her often for years after that. I remember that, as a kid, I felt bad not for myself but for the doll. I pictured her in the parking lot getting rained on, wondering where I was, missing all of her other stuffy friends who lived on my bed. I felt guilty even more than I felt sad—and I felt really, really sad.

I looked at Scarlett, who was beside herself, and I felt all of that again, and I knew she was feeling it too. You know this if you know Scarlett: she is nothing if not a feeler. 

We walked back down the mountain, and this felt very disrespectful to Brutus, whose name no one in our family will ever forget again, to just leave him there. Scarlett cried most of the way down, but by the time we got to Jason’s SUV, she had come up with a story to comfort herself. 

“Brutus is walking back to Calgary,” she told me. “He’ll be there when we get there. We’ll go to Shoppers Drug Mart (for this is where Brutus was born, as far as Scarlett is concerned), and he’ll be there waiting for me.”

And I, the dumb, dumb, stupid mother that I am, said, “Yes. You’re right.”


I said this because I could picture the Ty Beanie Boo display that sits by the register in every Shoppers Drug Mart I’ve ever been to. I could picture Brutus’s little doppelgängers, huge glittering eyes, just waiting for us when we got there. $7.99. Easy. If she was willing to imagine that one Brutus was all Brutuses, the problem was neatly solved. We could put this horrendous event behind us and go back to enjoying our vacation. 

But when we got to Shoppers Drug Mart, Brutus was not there. Whoolie was there. And Sissy and Tony and Meadow and Sapphire and Moonlight. Same glittering eyes. I pointed this out to Scarlett, I said, “They’re not Brutus, but they seem to be related.” Undeterred, and completely uninterested in Brutus’s family, she shrugged and said, “Yeah. I think they are. It’s okay. We’ll keep looking. I know we’ll find him.” Such faith. It’s almost like she’s the one who grew up watching Homeward Bound

We did keep looking. It has almost been a month, and I don’t think a single day has gone by where we have not either visited a Shoppers Drug Mart (or a Chapters, which also sells Beanie Boos, or a Canadian Tire, or some other random toy store) or had a lengthy conversation about where else Brutus might possibly have ended up. We talk about how he might still be walking. Calgary is very far away, especially when your legs are four inches long and sewn into an inconvenient crouching position. 

But here’s the cold, hard truth, which I have not known how to relay to Scarlett without completely destroying her: Brutus has clearly been discontinued.

I’ve been keeping an eye on Varage Sale, and Facebook Marketplace. Amazon has dead links to Brutuses that aren’t available for purchase in my region, and Ebay has Brutuses being sold by Ty Collectors who seem to think he is worth much more than $7.99. I don’t know. Maybe he is, in this case.

I began to hope that Scarlett might just forget about him—but I also know that I never forgot about my doll, abandoned and alone in the Bargain! Bargain! Bargain! The Bargain Shop parking lot, or Swift Current, or wherever. In fact, just this morning, Scarlett asked if we could go out looking for Brutus, and when I said that we wouldn’t have time today she sobbed for ten minutes straight. 

My heart…

Inspired by this latest bout of tears, I sent her downstairs to play video games with Sully and opened the Varage Sale app yet again. I typed in Beanie Boos. I scrolled and scrolled. Lots of people on Varage Sale are selling Beanie Boos; they sell them in lots, 34 Beanie Boos for $120, only willing to sell as a lot! 12 Beanie Boos, 2 bucks a piece, excellent used condition! 3 Beanie Boos, $20 bucks each, tags still on!

I scrolled and scrolled. More Whoolies, more Meadows, more Tonys. Brutus’s family reunion, minus him. I got to the very last entry, a chaotic picture of 40 plus Beanie Boos laid out on some stranger’s floor. I scanned it hopelessly.

But wonder of wonders: there was Brutus in the top right-hand corner. Disheveled and tired from his long walk down the mountain, through the buzzing metropolis of Calgary, Alberta and along the Trans-Canada Highway to Regina. His eyes glittered at me through the phone screen. 

I bought him so fast, from a man named Paul who was probably bewildered by all of my excitement in his inbox.

I’m sitting here now in my kitchen; it’s 4:40 PM. I’m leaving to pick up Brutus in 20 minutes. I haven’t told Scarlett yet. I’ve decided that I am going to do a very silly Mom thing, and I don’t care how cheesy it is. 

Here’s how it’s going to go: I’m going to smuggle Brutus into the house and wash him. I am not going to dry him because that will take too long. It has been raining today, so it’ll make sense that Brutus would be wet when he shows up at our door. I am going to get Sully to sneak outside and leave Brutus on the porch by the mailbox, under the doorbell. He is going to ring the bell and run around to the back door. I am going to send Scarlett to see who’s at the door, and she’s going to open it and find Brutus sitting on a letter. The letter is going to say, roughly, or exactly, this:

Dear Scarlett,

I have missed you so much! When I fell off that mountain, I worried I would never see you again. 

(But don’t worry, falling from so high didn’t hurt at all; I’m full of stuffing!)

When I got to the bottom, I got up, dusted myself off, and started walking to Calgary right away. It took me quite a while because my legs are so tiny. It got dark quickly that first night; I had to stop for a sleep. I made a little campsite beside a beautiful waterfall. A friendly bear who lived nearby offered me some marshmallows to roast over my campfire! His name was Paul. He sat with me and kept me company. He asked if I would like to stay for a while, but I said, “No, I have to get home to Scarlett. She’ll be wondering where I am and I miss her so much!” I told Paul all about you. He said you sounded wonderful. He wanted to come with me and meet you, but I said that Regina is not a good place for a bear.

The next morning I set off again. I walked down some steep trails that went straight down the mountain. People were riding bikes down these trails! It looked so scary! One of them saw me walking and offered me a ride on his handlebars. I wasn’t sure if I should, but then I remembered how it didn’t hurt to fall off the mountain and I realized that I didn’t really need to be afraid of anything. The mountain biker drove so fast through the trees; it always felt like we were going to run right into them but he was very good at turning quickly. It was so fun, Scarlett. Someday, will you give me a ride on your bike? I would love that.

The mountain biker offered me a ride back to Calgary in his truck, which I was very happy about. It would’ve taken me such a long time to walk all that way by myself! He dropped me off at the mall, and I went straight to Shopper’s Drug Mart, because I knew that you would look for me there with all the other Beanie Boos. It was such a fun reunion! I saw Whoolie and Sissy and Tony and Sapphire and Meadow and Moonlight! I told them about falling off the mountain, about my campfire with the bear named Paul, and the ride down the steep trails with the mountain biker. They were VERY impressed. 

But when I told them about you, and what you looked like, they said you’d already been there, looking for me, and had left already. I cried a little bit, but I knew I’d just have to keep moving! 

I asked them how to get out of Calgary. I knew I needed to get to the Number 1 Highway. I knew that was the way home. Whoolie told me that the quickest way to get to the Number 1 Highway was to take something called the C-train. Do you remember seeing that when you were in Calgary? It’s very fast, and very fun to ride. Someday, I would like to go back to Calgary with you and take a ride on that train together. 

When I got off the train, I found a little girl sitting on a bench. She was crying; she couldn’t find her dad. I sat beside her and I said, “I know just how you feel. I’ve lost my Scarlett.” It made her feel much better just to know that I understood why she was so sad. I said, “Let’s sit right here until your dad comes to get you. That’s always the smartest thing to do.”

I know this might seem funny to you, that I told her to do the exact opposite of what I had done, but the rules for stuffies are different than the rules for kids.

We sat there for an hour. I told her about the mountain bikes and the bear named Paul and my friends at Shoppers Drug Mart and my first ride on the C-Train. And then, like magic, her dad came! He was so happy to see her, and she was so happy to see him, and it made me so excited to see you again!

It gave me a burst of energy, and I ran to the Number 1 Highway!

This next part is very boring: I just walked and walked and walked. I walked for such a long time. Whenever I got tired I stopped and took a rest. I met some new friends along the way: a moose named Charlie, a fox named Dwight, three deer, Zoey, Sally, and Vernon, and even some mosquitos who were all named Blaine! 

Zoey let me ride on her back for a little while. I think if she hadn’t, it would’ve taken me another month to get home. Every time I passed a Shoppers Drug Mart, I stopped to see if you had been there. I stopped at one in Brooks, and at another in Medicine Hat, and another in Swift Current. Each time, I got to see old friends, and each time, they told me you’d been there looking for me. Even though I was sad to know I’d missed you, it also made me very happy to know that you were looking for me! It made me happy to know how much you cared about me. It made me want to walk even faster.

So I did.

When I got to Swift Current, a car stopped to see if I was okay. A little boy in the back seat had looked out his window and seen me walking, and he yelled at his mom to stop the car. When he opened the door he said, “Hi, my name is Jaden.” I said, “Hi, my name is Brutus.” Jaden said, “What are you doing all the way out here in the middle of nowhere?” I said, “I’m trying to get to Scarlett. She lives in Regina.” He said, “I’m going to Regina! Would you like a ride?” And I said, “Thank you, yes please!”

I’m not sure if this was a mistake or not. On the one hand, Jaden’s mom did drive me all the way to Regina. On the other hand, by the time we got there, Jaden didn’t want me to leave him. He had grown attached to me. I asked him to drop me off at your house and he said, “No! You’re my stuffy now!”

This is why you should never get into a car with a stranger. I know that now.

So I lived at Jaden’s house for a little while. He had a very big house, and his bedroom was on the top floor. He always kept his bedroom door closed, so I couldn’t escape. I was very worried that I would never see you again.

Then one day, Jaden’s mom came into his bedroom when he wasn’t home. She spoke out loud, even though he wasn’t there to hear it, she said, “This room smells awful!” She opened the window to let some fresh air in. After she left, I climbed up onto the window ledge and looked down at the yard. It was really far down, and I was very afraid to jump, but then I remembered the mountain, and how far I’d fallen then—and mountains are much, much higher than houses! I remembered how I didn’t need to be afraid!

Scarlett! I jumped out of the window! (This is another thing that stuffies can do that kids should never, never do. You are NOT full of stuffing!)

I landed on Jaden’s mom’s car, just as she was backing out of the driveway. I sat on the roof, holding on tight, as she drove away from Jaden’s house. I was free! 

Jaden’s mom drove past so many places that I remembered. I felt so excited—I was getting so close to you! We drove past McDonald’s, past the university, past the Naked Bean. Jaden’s mom parked her car on Broad Street. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was!

After how far I’d travelled already, I knew I could walk the rest of the way very easily. It started raining, but I didn’t even mind. I remembered that at your house you have a nice warm dryer in the basement. I knew that you would put me in there and then you would take me to bed with you and tuck me in with all of the other stuffies. I was so excited. I came around the corner to your street. I walked past Isla’s house, then Rosie’s, then Sloane’s. It took me a little while to climb the steps to your door, and a very long time to climb up onto the mailbox so I could ring the doorbell. I thought it was funny that this was, hands down, the hardest part of getting home to you—reaching the door bell.

But now I’m here! I’m about to ring the doorbell! I’m so excited to take a ride in the dryer and get nice and warm, but much more than that I’m excited to see your beautiful face! 


And Scarlett is going to show me the stuffy and ask me to help her read the letter, and I will, and then I’m going to say, “Wait, what’s his name again?”

Because I love when things come full circle. 



Anonymous said...


Barbara said...

How incredibly special! While I was reading I was going to start searching for one too!! So glad you found Brutus. You’re an awesome Mom! 💕💕💕