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The Quest for Wembley Fraggle

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One recent holiday season, my sister in Denver called and left me a message two weeks before Christmas. I recognized the raw panic in her voice.

“Kathy, this is Gail. I know this is a huge favor, but we’ve been trying to get a Wii, and neither Greg nor I have been able to find one. We’ve been to practically every Best Buy and Target in the state of Colorado. Would you be able to try stores in Pennsylvania?”

In the first place, I didn’t even know what a Wii was. She told me it was the latest Nintendo game system, and that the kids had to have it. I almost said something older sister-ish like, “There are kids going without shoes, and you’re spending crazed hours and big bucks on a toy that your kids will not even remember in three weeks?”

Then I remembered my long-ago search for Wembley Fraggle. For those who never saw the quite wonderful kids’ TV program Fraggle Rock, Wembley Fraggle was one of master puppeteer Jim Henson’s Muppet characters in the show.

When my children were younger, they were hooked on Fraggle Rock (and as much as I hate to admit it, so was I). Above all else, my son wanted the stuffed-doll version of the goofy lime-green Wembley Fraggle. That Halloween, I’d even made my children Fraggle costumes, complete with felt caps, yarn hair and ping-pong balls for eyes.

At the time, we lived in Southern California. And as I set out to do my holiday shopping, I was certain I’d find Wembley in the first toy store at the mall. No luck there, so I tried another store, then another mall. Then every Target, Kmart and whatever-else-mart within a 50-mile radius of Los Angeles. In between trips, I called toy stores in Orange County. Mind you, this was in that dark time before Amazon and eBay.

It seems crazy to me now (even after decades of therapy), but I somehow felt that my entire worth as a mother hinged on finding Wembley. If I couldn’t perform this one simple act for my son, how could I face his crestfallen face on Christmas morning?

Understand that I was one of those mothers who’d actually call McDonald’s to see if they had the Happy Meal toy my children desired. I did something similar with Beanie Babies.

Devastated, I’d pretty much given up on finding Wembley, resigned to taking my place in the Bad Moms Hall of Fame. Then, one day, I zipped into a random toy store in Beverly Hills. Rummaging like a madwoman through a huge pile of stuffed animals, I suddenly spotted a lime-green foot.

Be still, my heart.

I yanked the appendage, causing a fluffy animal avalanche. There he was: Wembley Fraggle.

Years later, my son was getting ready to leave for college, and I was digging through boxes of stuff in the basement, trying to downsize and prepare for my empty nest. And there, at the bottom of a box of LEGOs, Lincoln Logs and Barbie dolls with shaved heads, was Wembley. His face was faded, and he smelled like sweaty socks. I hesitated for a moment, then tossed him in the pile of junk to go out to the trash.

I know it sounds ruthless. But sometimes a Mom has to do what a Mom has to do.

If hard pressed, Haverford-based freelance writer Kathy Stevenson could sing all the words to “Dance Your Cares Away, Worries for Another Day.”

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