I took my mind back to April of 2005: Butterfly was almost 4 months old, and Weasel was almost 15 months old (yes, they are what I believe they call "Irish twins"--they are the same age for 8 days out of the year). That was the time H had de-boarded my old raft and began building her own--and it was a very intense time indeed. While I was at work one day, she had stopped by My Blue Heaven and cleared out absolutely every trace of Weasel and Butterfly's presence there. Not just the furniture/crib/playpen, toys, bottles, and diapers (down to the last one)...but also every single toy and article of clothing. Seriously, every single item. The idea was that I was never going to see my kids again...an ominous idea, of course, but, I suppose that was her point. I have had long nights in my life before--many of them--but that was by far the longest night I had (and have!) ever experienced. I had been through breakups before, of course, but this was my first time facing separation from the two most important parts of myself. Had I been rational that night, I would have seen that there is no possible way I would never see my kids again...but I was far from rational, so I spent the entire night not sleeping, being utterly heartbroken, and completely terrified.
There was no comfort for me that night, and I didn't even bother trying to find any. Not for comfort's sake, but I suppose just for something to do, I decided to make some tea...because that's what you do, I guess, when you're broken, afraid, and don't like coffee. So I reached down into the back of the cupboard for a sauce pan, and stashed inside it is Weasel's favorite toy--the suddenly extra extra special toy phone. The joy seeing that toy phone brought me is hard to describe, but given the state of mind I was in that night, it was pretty much overwhelming. I plopped straight down to the floor, sat cross-legged, and began playing with it. I felt right away that Weasel had stashed it there on purpose--possibly while his mother was loading the rest of his belongings into her car. I imagined that he loved me and was so gifted beyond his years that he was looking after me...that he hid it from her just for me. Had he done that intentionally, that would have been a tremendous sacrifice he made for me. Of course, I will never know if that's how it went down (imagination is a powerful thing), but I would never forget how much comfort that little toy brought me that night--at a time when even my imagination offered me no hope of comfort.
I didn't sleep that night, but after I found Weasel's most precious toy--the only remnant of my kids left in My Blue Heaven--I became calmer, and a little less heartbroken. More importantly, it awakened hope. I knew already that I would not be able to go into work the next day since I hadn't slept a wink, so I started making plans for the next day: first off I would go to the library and would study child custody law in the state of Alaska. I would arm myself with information. I would learn what I could and couldn't do legally, and I would prepare to take whatever steps necessary to see my kids again. And I already knew of a good family law attorney here in Anchorage, so I would schedule a consultation with her. The fire and determination awakened again within myself. I knew inside that there was no way I wasn't going to see my kids again, that I couldn't be defeated--not when it came to my kids, anyway. All this from a simple toy phone.
I did follow through with those plans the next day; I spent a few hours studying law books at the library, and I got the answers I needed. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but that it could be done. I learned that if I played my cards just right, I could win full custody of my kids and H would never again hold that kind of power over us. I didn't get to meet with the attorney that day, but I did get my appointment scheduled with her. I felt better after doing that too. I guess it's true what they say: knowledge really IS power.
I'm not sure exactly how long it ended up being before I saw Weasel and Butterfly after that, but I think it may have been close to two weeks. Only that first night was awful, though...until I found Weasel's favorite toy. I do remember meeting with the attorney, and she was most encouraging. She confirmed what I had understood from the law books at the library, and added some great pointers of her own. She would represent me, of course, if we had to go to court; but she emphasized that it's always better for the children if the two parents can work it out on their own. Thankfully, in the long run, we WERE able to work it out on our own (though this was no simple or speedy process), and we never had to include the court system. That is a huge blessing, by the way, that I will forever be grateful for. All because Weasel stashed his favorite toy in a sauce pan.
The lesson in this: never underestimate the power of your child's favorite toy. I believe it's understood without me saying, that toy phone will most definitely be aboard my new raft when I build it. It will always be one of my prize possessions. As a final note, the sticker of the sun that is on that toy phone was placed there by Butterfly (later on, of course--not when she was 4 months old). True to her character always, she can be relied upon to leave her mark in the most precious of my places. I am a lucky dude.