Friday, December 12, 2008

Leif's Second Christmas 1976 - Charlottesville, Virginia - Nearly 2 Years Old

When Leif was a year-and-a-half old, in the summer of 1976, we moved from Manhattan, Kansas to Charlottesville, Virginia, where we lived in a two-story townhouse on Woodlake Drive. We only lived there for one year before moving to Germany, but it was a very good year for all of us.

That year, we were fortunate to have a lot of family with us for Christmas. Leif was darling, and by that time, talking, and very, very bright. For instance, he had a "shape ball" where he could fit complex shapes into holes of the same shape. It was not only a discrimination task but also one of dexterity, as it wasn't easy to fit the shapes through the holes. He would sit there and say, "This is a hexagon. This is a trapezoid," and so on. He always got them all exactly right. I think there were at least 10, and maybe a total of 12 shapes.

He nearly had me convinced that he knew now to read, because he would carefully turn the pages of Dr. Seuss's long book, The Lorax, and recite every word that went on each page correctly. The only way I figured out that he had memorized the entire book and knew what words were on each page was by writing down words separately from the book to see if he knew them, and he didn't.

That Christmas, the favorite thing Leif got was Fluffy, the soft, stuffed dog in the photo. Fluffy was nearly as big as he was when he first got him, but very light and very cuddly. Leif loved soft cuddly things (especially cats), but Fluffy was his all time favorite stuffed animal. He loved Fluffy for years, played with him, took him everywhere. I've posted a couple of photos before of him posing Fluffy on his tricycle and sled, even with a football helmet on him.

Fluffy was a gift from Lannay, my sister, who lived about a two hour's drive away that year, at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, and came to visit often.

Leif slept with Fluffy for years. I remember when we were moving from Germany to Japan when Leif was five years old, the summer of 1980, and I came through the USA to visit family with the boys ahead of Peter W. We flew from London to Dallas on Braniff, where we had to go through Customs and Immigration before getting on a flight to Kansas City. Like several other airlines that existed at that time, Braniff, too, is no more. Of course, Leif had to have Fluffy with him at all times, including on the plane.

While in the huge Dallas airport, alone with the boys, and struggling with luggage, I was dismayed and frustrated when Leif first took to tossing Fluffy up in the air and letting him land on the floor, as he certainly wasn't going to stay clean that way, and then he took Fluffy in his arms and took off running away from me through the crowd. This wasn't the first or last time Leif took off. He had just done it in Dartmouth, England days before. I had the lousy choice of leaving the luggage behind and asking Peter Anthony (only 11) to stay with it while I literally ran after Leif, or hollering at him and hoping he would stop. I tried both before I managed to get him to stick with me. (And then the airline lost the luggage. We never saw it again after I checked it, and we arrived in Kansas in 115 degree heat with no clothes!)

By the time we got to Japan, Fluffy was already three-and-a-half years old and looking a bit matted down, but still much loved. I don't remember how long Leif had Fluffy, but I'm pretty sure he still had him when we moved to Hawaii in 1983. At some point, Fluffy got wet and dirty. I don't remember how. He didn't dry out well and smelled bad, and Leif finally agreed to give him up.

Of the gifts Leif got for Christmas in his young life, Fluffy was one of the best and most beloved. I'll always remember him hugging and snuggling that dog on Christmas Eve 1976, looking angelic and oh, so happy.

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