I didn’t want to see my kids just on weekends. During the week, I took them to a playgroup in one of the buildings on Newbury Street. I sat in a circle with the moms and their kids, singing, wrestling, and generally acting goofy. As I rolled around on the floor, the moms didn’t know what to make of me. But they gradually accepted me, and I got to be with my kids. On Saturdays, I took them to the top of the Prudential Building, only a few blocks from my apartment.
The carpeted floors and large, soft furniture were ideal for some safe roughhousing, and the observation deck was a large square track, where the kids could wear themselves out by running around and around. There were rainy days when we couldn’t see a damn thing, but we still went up there, just to have something to do together.
Care objects were very important to the kids as their little minds tried to manage all the moving around. Kerry had a blanket with which she slept every night. Seamus became attached to a stuffed Pal dog from the PBS show Arthur. Pal took on identifying textures and wear marks as he was beaten, barfed on, and laundered. He was one of a kind and certainly irreplaceable. I became obsessed with knowing where Pal and “Blankie” were at all times. At the time, I kept a bag full of the kids’ things in my room and doled out clothes and toys like gold bullion. As the end of each visit approached, I turned the apartment upside down with drill-sergeant precision to ensure that all the kids’ stuff was accounted for.
Then one day Pal disappeared. I scoured under beds and behind furniture. The apartment wasn’t that big, so coming up dry convinced me that the crisis was indeed serious. After several nights of listening to my tearful son on the phone bemoaning the loss of Pal, I slunk over to FAO Schwarz and purchased another.
I brought the replacement Pal to my office. I tried to duplicate, in a single day, years’ worth of wear marks. I took a baseball bat to the pristine doggie, and then I threw the six-inch-thick Handbook of Fixed Income Securities at him. My partners in our venture firm couldn’t figure out what was going on. My door was shut and I didn’t respond to any calls or e-mails all day. On the walk home, I took the now-limp dog and rolled him in sidewalk sand. When I got to my condo, I threw him in the washing machine for an extra-heavy spin cycle.
That night I stood apprehensively at my ex-wife’s front door with the new, but suitably worn, Pal. But before I could present him, I learned that the original Pal had been recovered; Kerry confessed to smuggling him home and hiding him inside the folds of her mother’s curtains. When I returned to my apartment, I stored the spare dog in the back of my closet, just in case.