A version of this post originally appeared as a note on Facebook; I've edited slightly for this space.
When Margot was scheduled to have her surgery, I wanted her to have some special little thing for her night in the ICU; I wasn't allowed to spend the night. I still try to avoid thinking about it. For the first 3 and a half months of her life, she'd slept beside me in my bed, and spent her days in a Maya wrap (the only place that brought her comfort before her surgery). It felt so counterintuitive to leave her there, tubes sprouting from every part of her body; it's only now that I can fully appreciate the tremendous faith and trust it took for me to leave her in the care of strangers. So, before we headed to the hospital, I started my search for some token that I could leave with her to let her know that I hadn't abandoned her.
I had shopped at Natural Pod, a business in BC that sells lovely natural toys and products for children. There I found a sweet little dolly called "Baby Belle", just a simple scrap of soft terry cloth, with a neutral face and a long gnomish hood. She is stuffed with natural sheep's wool, which absorbs the scents of people, home, and all things familiar. I ordered one in navy blue because it was the colour of Margot's eyes, intending to tuck it into bed with me until that night when she'd sleep without me; the plan was that she might be comforted, even subconsciously, by my scent.
As fate and the quirks of Canada Post would have it, it didn't arrive on time. But we did get it before we left CHEO (a few days post-op). We named her Peppa, and Margot was totally enraptured by that tiny, simple little doll. She lay on her side in her hospital crib, just gazing and cooing at this little dolly. She's a perfect little doll for babies because she's tiny and lightweight, great for chewing on, and easy to tuck in your pocket or diaper bag.
Months after our hospital experience, I got an email from Natural Pod reminding me that I hadn't paid for Peppa! In the distraction of that time in my life, I returned home and forgot to send payment. This email was a gentle reminder, and also a check to make sure I'd actually received my order.
I quickly replied, explaining the basics of the tale I just told you above, assuring them that I would send payment immediately. I also referred to a photo I took of Margot gazing at Peppa in her crib, and of how much we loved the little doll.
I got a reply from a Natural Pod staffer, begging me to accept Peppa as a gift, thanking me for sharing our story, and telling me that they were all in tears after hearing our tale. They also asked that, in lieu of payment, I send them a photo of Margot with Peppa.
Please consider this story when you are doing your Christmas shopping this year. Toys R Us has everything your child might want. But would they have let me off the hook for an unpaid bill? I doubt it.
There are many little family-owned businesses that are living by their values, trying to provide us with lovely, handmade, soulful items for our children and our loved ones. They actually DO care about the stories their customers share, and that makes me loyal to them. I didn't share my story with them in hopes that they'd feel sorry for me or give me a freebie, but more as an apology for my distraction, because I know they're a small business and can't really afford to give stuff away.
Visit the good people at Natural Pod, or Twig and Toadstool, or Nova Natural Toys and see if you can't find something unique, beautiful, and timeless for the little ones in your life. Resist the compulsion to spend your money on plastic toys just because your kids saw them on TV. You, as a consumer, have the power to create change just with the choices you make. Where you choose to spend your money sends a powerful message to the world of big business.
Margot, with Peppa, at her 3-months post-op checkup.