MOLLY is a blessing and a curse. She’s a real character, with a solemn but friendly little face, and a beloved member of our family. She’s supported Bess through the highs and lows that only a toddler knows; through life changing moments like the start of school, vaccinations, moving house – and she has danced, jumped and loved with her through them. She’s cuddled and soothed through scary dreams and sad moments. She’s been loved to within a inch of her life and her fur is now matted and she bloody stinks to high heaven of play-doh, glue, eau-de-vomit, dust and musky toddler-breath.
Molly is five-year old Bess’ comforter, her best friend; her beloved soft-toy cat.
Molly is also one of the biggest pains-in-the-arse I have ever encountered. I’m thankful for her love and loyalty to Bess but Jesus Christ, this cat has exhausted her nine lives and then some. She’s sent me to the brink so many times; the sudden panic when a little voice pipes up, usually in the back of the car, with ‘Where’s Molly, Mummy?’ and the cold sweat descends; the heart palpitations start and Daddy and I pass ‘oh fucks’ between us through the art of Parent-to-Parent Eyeball Telepathy. The silent game of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ that we play to decide whose responsibility it is this time to go racing around Ikea like bloody Anneka Rice, on a mission to beat the clock and hopefully the diligent staff, as we retrace Bess’ footsteps while muttering ‘If I was a toy cat, where the hell would I hide this time?’ and manically throwing open every METOD kitchen cabinet or yanking MALM drawers open; only to find her hiding in a CIRKUSTLÄT tent, looking smug and pleased with herself as I pant and say to her glassy eyes, “For fuck’s sake, Molly, that’s another life down.”
We first met Molly across a crowded shop – JoJo Maman Bebe, to be precise, in Richmond – when Bess was eighteen months old. Bess couldn’t have given one tiny fart about this fluffy black and white cat initially, as I lovingly shoved this fluffy toy at her and cooed, ‘Darling, isn’t this little cat gorgeous? Let’s buy her and take her home!’. We actually took her to the pub, where I should have foreseen the next three and half years unfolding before my eyes as Bess stealth-lobbed ‘Cat! Cat!’ over the side of the pram and Molly spent a good fifteen minutes lying amongst the fag butts and muddy dust in the pub courtyard. “Oh Cat, (as she was known then, before Bess got the concept of naming her toys) you daft thing!” I said, while brushing the dust off her fur. “You have to stay with Bess, not attempt The Great Escape!” I chuckled to myself. Ho bloody ho.
Well Molly/Cat didn’t quite listen to my warning and she has consequently been ‘lost’ in a variety of places. Ikea has been a favourite place for her to run off and hide, but we have also lost her at the airport en-route to our honeymoon in Greece, JUST as we were about to board; luckily found by a very kind security chap while the air hostess rapped her fingernails impatiently on the gate desk. Another life down. She got an extra ride on the Congo River Rapids at Alton Towers most recently and had to be strung, by one leg, to the pram all day to dry out after the family that she hitched a ride with didn’t protect her ‘sufficiently’ from the waterfall section and she got drenched and turned into a furry sponge. For fuck’s sake, Molly! She has spent an afternoon in aisle nine of our local Tesco, sitting between the Worcestershire and hot pepper sauces looking a bit glum before we finally found her with a ‘for god’s sake Molly, that’s another life over!’. Or how about the time she decided to tour London in a black cab, after we had got out at our hotel and only realised she was missing as the taxi drove off into the traffic as we manically waved to try and attract the cabbie’s attention – which thankfully, worked and he double backed and reunited Molly with a very tearful but relieved Bess and her enthusiastically appreciative parents.
Molly’s most recent coup-de-grace was after we popped to a pub on the way home from a weekend away, for a little quick tea en-route. We’d cheerfully filled our bellies and got back into the car to start the two hour journey home when, forty-five minutes down the Cotswold roads, that familiar ‘Where’s Molly, Mummy?’ piped up from the back. My heart stopped. ‘Oh my god’, I frantically thought; I don’t know, I definitely don’t remember her getting back into the car with Bess, and Daddy and I looked at each other with that ‘NO, NO, NO, NOT AGAIN‘ look that actually also means ‘WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO DRIVE ALL THE WAY BACK AND THEN ALL THE WAY BACK AGAIN TO THIS POINT AND THAT IS AN HOUR-AND-HALF IN TOTAL AND IT’S NINE O’CLOCK AT NIGHT ALREADY, WHAT-THE-WHAT?!’. You know, that look. Also, that resignation that despite it being a right bloody hassle, Molly is essentially more important than sleep or driving exhaustion and so Daddy dutifully turned the car around, taking the corners and bends a little bit faster than he really should while muttering under his breath ‘for fuck’s sake, Molly‘ while I stroked his hand on the gear stick to let him know that I got it even though secretly, I thought he was over reacting just a teensy little bit and did an internal eye-roll as he huffed and puffed the thirty miles back to the pub.
By the time we arrived, I jumped out of the car and raced into the pub garden, searching every nook and cranny of where we had been sitting, even stealing myself to go into the spidery play fort in my valiant search for this asshole cat. “For fuck’s sake Molly, where are you NOW?” I said under my breath as the punters looked at me with bemusement. If they ever want to bring back Challenge Anneka, by the way, I feel I would be a good candidate for the new role. You should be able to add this stuff to your CV – ‘Finder-er of children’s comfort toys – Advanced Level’. Maybe you could take a test in it, with timed results? It could become an Olympic event with parents frantically racing around an assault course, hurtling over stacks of My Little Ponies and Ikea circus tents. Anyway, I digress. As a last ditch attempt I checked the outdoor toilets and it was almost a shock to find her in the second loo sitting there, bold as brass on the loo roll holder, giving zero fucks about the fact that I had just contemplated the end of our world as we knew it. I held her high as I took her back to the car, and tucked her under my darling sleeping girl’s arm. And off we went, Daddy still huffing a little bit but not taking the corners so sharply this time, and re-attempted our journey home.
So why do we put ourselves through this pain? Well, because Bess adores her. And I adore Bess, so in turn, I have to admit that part of me adores Molly, even if she is a dick. After the latest pub escapade, Bess woke up and started crying straight away as we attempted to prise her out of the car as we arrived home. “I’ll never see Molly ever again” she wailed, grief-stricken. I softly smiled, and whispered in her ear, “Oh my little love. She’s here, under your arm, safe and sound. Mummy found her!” Her face, her tiny, beautiful freckled little face, lit up with love and delight and she cuddled Molly to her chest, strangling her with desperate affection. There was no doubt about it, for all the hassle, for the extra hour and a half journey – it was worth it. But for Molly, another life down.
Don’t tell anyone, but secretly I love my role as ‘Chief Finder of Molly’. That moment of triumphant jubilation as I locate her, with a ‘for fuck’s sake Molly’ but really, deep down, a wave of utter relief and love. I always sniff her fur, that stinky cat, that smells so much of love and warmth and my Bess. And I chastise this daft soft toy, with her black shiny eyes, and tell her not to be so silly because quite frankly, we can’t live without her. She’s a part of our hearts as much as Bess’ now, a whole extra character in the family, as real as a pet, or perhaps even a sibling.
So be warned, new parents, who wander into JoJo Maman Bebe and spy the Jelly Cat shelf and think ‘Oh how lovely! Let’s buy a little friend for our sweet baby’ that you are about to embark on a rollercoaster of abject hell but also of love, dedication and loyalty. Even if it means adding an extra sixty miles to your journey home.
About Kate Dyson
Founder of The Motherload. Wife, mum to two girls, two cats and shit loads of washing in baskets that sit around the house waiting to be ironed. It never happens. Hater of exercise, denier of weight gain, lover of wine. Feminist. You can follow me on TwitterTags: anneka rice cat comfort comfort toys jelly-cat JoJo Maman Bebe losing precious toys loved toys Richmond searching for a lost toy soft toy where do toys hide