Hot Summer Nights

IMG_7972-3My favorite childhood companion was my stuffed Bantam Morgan dog. She was a third birthday gift from Uncle Fritz Danster, a Holocaust survivor and professional photographer. I loved my parents, my cousins, and my best friend, Patti Reyman, but Morgan was my constant companion.

It was early July, 1963; I was not quite four years old. My parents had gone away for a week’s vacation leaving my sister and me with our grandparents in the city. We had driven up the country (our phrase for the vacation house in upstate New York) for the weekend. It was late and I was in bed; I was supposed to be asleep but between the relentless heat and the sound of the TV I couldn’t drop off. I reached for Morgan, and in pulling her closer to me for a chat, heard a snick sound – like something hard and plastic had hit the linoleum floor. Feeling Morgan’s soft face I realized with dread that the sound had been one of her black plastic button eyes falling off and disappearing, probably forever. She would now need an eye patch like the one worn by my cousin Karen to correct her lazy eye.

Filled with horror at my friend’s potential fate, I shrieked and burst into heaving, gulping sobs. Both grandparents stumbled over one another to reach my small maple bed. “What’s wrong?” my grandmother gasped in fear.

I continued howling. “It’s Morgan! She can’t see!” I held up my stuffed friend. In the glow of the bedside lamp, it was evident that one of the button eyes was indeed missing. My grandmother sighed in relief that it was the toy and not me. “Oh, is that all? The dog lost a button? We’ll find it and I’ll sew it on in the morning.”

Shocked at her callous dismissiveness of my friend’s suffering, I emitted another ear-splitting wail. “No! Now! She’s blind! She’ll fall out of bed ’cause she can’t see where she’s going! Now! We have to find it now!”

I was wide awake at this point; thanks to me, so was everyone else. With a sigh and a snap of the switch, my grandmother flooded the room with light from the overhead fixture and commenced the search while I clutched Morgan and snuffled.

It took about fifteen seconds to find the button; it had, after all, fallen right next to the bed and hadn’t even had the energy to bounce anywhere in the sultry night. My grandmother fetched her sewing box and, under my watchful gaze, reattached Morgan’s eye thus restoring her sight. Perhaps due to the drama, Morgan and I fell asleep right after the surgery.

I sometimes think of Morgan’s accident on hot summer nights; occasionally I think of it randomly when I see her perched on my bed. It’s been over fifty years since her brush with blindness and more amazing, even, than her miraculous recovery, is my grandmother’s reaction to her misadventure, specifically the speed with which she assuaged a little girl’s pain and fear by repairing her stuffed friend immediately.

I miss my grandmother and her trusty needle. She could fix lots of things; I could use her skill now.