This is the relieved smile of a four-year-old girl who is reunited with her comfort pillow after spending one night without it.
Other children have security blankets or favourite stuffed toys. For Shannon, it has always been her yellow-orange sunflower pillow. She took to it from the time she was four months old, when it came with a congratulatory hamper her papa’s ex-colleague, Eddie, gave to us.
It might have been our then-helper, Anna, who offered her the pillow as a toy of sorts. Shannon took to it so well, Anna said the pillow was Shannon’s best friend. The name “Friend” stuck and it is what we have been calling this once-fluffy, petalled beauty which has seen better days. Shannon and her sunflower have never been separated since.
This is the look of joy her pillow friend brings her.
With her Friend, she soothes herself to sleep. She has never been patted or carried to sleep from birth. There was no need to, there was always Friend, who would induce the sucking of fingers, and low and behold, she would drift into dreamland.
It wasn’t just sleep time that Friend’s services were needed. Milk-time also called for Friend’s company.
Shannon’s first visit to the Zoo was also Friend’s first outing to see the animals.
When she turned one, Weiwei, our close friend who is an excellent baker, offered to bake her cake and asked us what were her favourite toys. There was no question about it, we could only come up with one thing, her Friend. And make it, she did, petals and all.
One-year-old Shannon with her Friend cake.
We have taken many trips as a family, and each time, Friend would come along. On the train to Malacca, Friend kept Shannon happy in her bunk bed.
When she woke up from her nap, her ever-faithful Friend became a table for her lunch of fried rice.
Oh Shannon loves her soft toys and would usually pick a few to bring along with her when we travel.
The difference between Friend and The Others? Friend had a prime seat beside Shannon during the journey. The rest are in “cattle class”, in the luggage or boot.
Friend was indispensable, and there was no replica (we could find). Her doting grandmothers have searched high and low for a substitute, from Singapore to wherever they have travelled. They have found other pillows but none were the exact same one. One was the same colour, but different in shape. Another, same texture, but in the wrong colour, and so on. So we have several versions of “Friend” but none that could replace it. Years ago I checked with the hamper company – see my desperation – and got a negative reply. We wanted to be prepared for one day when we might need a substitute for Friend.
A breakthrough came during one holiday in Malaysia over a year ago, when her Grandma found the closest replica to date. A pink version. Needless to say, we snapped it up. Its petals are not as soft as the original Friend, but it would do for a substitute, or so I thought.
But, all it earned was the title super-Sub. We never found much use for it. Shannon preferred the original.
Even when she was given other toys for her birthday, like this beautiful, long snake from her shushu, Friend remained there, in the background.
When she role-plays as a teacher, Friend becomes her student.
When we pick her Papa from work, Friend goes along for the ride.
Chinese New Year visits? Here is Friend watching over the kids.
Our family is ever grateful to Friend. We take pains to wash it when it starts to look crummy. We take care to bring it wherever we go. It may not have a passport but a check on Shannon’s would show the places it has been to.
In a public bus as it whizzed through the streets of Bangkok.
Helping to keep her warm in wintry Hong Kong.
You get the idea, basically, Shannon can’t do without her Friend. It keeps her happy. (Translated: It keeps the parents happy when the child is happy.)
We had a near-miss at Ikea two months ago when we left it behind at the checkout counter, and it lay there, camouflaged by all the yellow Ikea bags until we did a frenzied about-turn on the way home and went back to find it. All in, it was perhaps 30 minutes away from Friend. But it was enough to dissolve Shannon into a bucket of tears and to solemnly agree not to take Friend along everywhere we went.
As with all things, we got lax. She napped on the way to dinner on Saturday and we let her bring it along when we reached Fusionopolis because she was still hugging it when I carried her from the car. We were early to dinner and did a bout of grocery shopping while their Papa sat at the Soup Spoon restaurant outside with Friend and waited for us. In our hurry to get to dinner, we exited the supermarket and left hurriedly.
It wasn’t until bedtime that she looked for Friend. She couldn’t find it and asked Papa, who told her it must be in the car. Ten minutes later, he came back to her bedroom and blurted out, “it’s gone, we lost it”. She sobbed herself to sleep that night. We told her we would go back the next day to look for it. In between her tears she asked, “What if we can’t find it?” I had no good answer to that. That night, super-Sub was put to good use. I took it out and she tearfully agreed to hug it. She slept well.
We went back when the shops opened. They waited in the car while I ran to the restaurant. And low and behold, friend was in the corner of the restaurant’s booth seat. I grabbed it, thanked the manager and rushed off to report the good news. The cheers that erupted from the car and the grins that greeted me were incredible.
Even my usually-gruff husband said he felt sad thinking it might have been lost forever. Shannon said she would never bring it out again. I told my husband, we’d better take care of Friend like it’s an important artefact. No, he said, Friend is family.