One morbid evening changed how I viewed bedtime as a child.
I was tucked in tightly on March 29, 2001, by mother who had pressed a kiss to my forehead and left the room with a smile. In the middle of the night, that smile was gone. I was awoken by the shrieking sounds of sirens and panic and the words rang through my ears: my mother had passed away.
As a three-year-old, there was no possible way for me to comprehend what had happened to my mother. A scientific explanation about her heart failure couldn’t express what occurred that night. All I knew was that I fell asleep with a mother and awoke without one.
It’s plain to see why I then feared sleep. I buried myself under layers of blankets that engulfed my head, as if shielding my head from the world. The lights remained on in my room to protect me from whatever was creeping around at nighttime. It was a problem–not only did my baby sister cry because she missed her loving mother, but I simply couldn’t sleep.
What I needed was a protector: someone who always had my back through thick and thin. I was in desperate need of someone who could scare the lurking creatures away and make the endless, black as charcoal nights a little less torturous.
That’s when my dad lugged me to Toys R Us and we roamed down each aisle. I stared in wide-eyed admiration at each plastic, cheaply made play toy that stuffed the numerous shelves until the hand not occupied by my mouth that was busy sucking on my thumb stretched out and pointed to a big brown teddy bear so large that it was the same height as me. My dad crouched down and asked what I wanted to name it and I blabbed out sheer nonsense.
“Cici.” I had no idea that this was a real name, but it stuck. Cici was at my side for the next few years, sharing long car rides, laughter, and yes, even the dreaded bedtime with me. I gripped him tightly as I squeezed my eyes shut to escape into a sleep filled with dreams of Elmo and cupcakes. I genuinely believed he scared away the monsters that kept me awake all those horrid weeks before him. I trusted him. Sleeping slowly became an easier routine to me. The lights were turned off in my room and I was able to tumble into a deep slumber more quickly.
Some things haven’t changed. I still have a terrifying fear of the dark. The covers still remain over my head involuntary, as strange as it may sound. I can fall asleep and wake up with my head tucked under my quilt–proof that some habits stick after years of routine. Traumas at such a young age affect people in odd ways that no one can quite comprehend. They make us who we are today.
Although Cici doesn’t take the adventurous treks to grocery stores or vacations with me anymore, he isn’t forgotten. He lies on the edge of the mattress, waiting for me to need him again. On the stressful school nights that I am upset or can’t sleep, I hold him closely to me to reminisce on a simpler time. He was a reminder that there are some things in this world you can always count on.
As a child, Cici was my friend and own personal knight in shining armor. But now, I realize he was more than just a fluffy, fake bear; he was a symbol to me. He symbolized hope, happiness, and trust in a world that failed you. He made me look for the best things in life amidst the worst.
Cici made my life as a three-year-old much more bearable–no pun intended.