My dear friend Aimee sent me a book called “Toot and Puddle” as a Winter Solstice gift for Elanor from her family. It has recently become a favorite book, and it has enabled Elanor to talk about her life as an expat in a way we haven’t been able to before.
Toot and Puddle are two pigs who are best friends. Toot likes to travel, while Puddle prefers to have adventures at home. One day in January Toot decides to see the world. The rest of the book alternates postcards from Toot around the world and Puddle’s adventures back at home until one day in November, Toot decides to return home. They have a reunion in December.
The irony in moving Elanor across the world when she was only 18 months was that we felt like we were making it easier on her. Far easier than a cross-globe move was on Ravi when he was 12 and firmly entrenched in his school and friends, we said. In all fairness, it was. While Ellie misses her friends, she easily and happily has made new friends and has transitioned easily into life in Singapore. She even speaks Singlish (including the dread “can not” as a response to being asked to do something).
However, there are several friends that Elanor has managed to retain even from the opposite side of the world. CJ, Zane and Frances are still in her life. As she becomes more articulate, she has begun to bring up her friends and to ask what they are doing at a given moment, and when she’ll see them next. I make a point of showing her pictures on facebook or from our collection when she asks for them. But for a child who is still learning to differentiate between days of the week, explaining why she can’t just have a play date with her American friends whenever she wants is difficult.
Toot and Puddle gave us the language to help answer those questions in a way that she seems to understand or at least accept at this point in her life. I imagine it’s helpful in the inverse as well (being the friend who is still at home). I especially like that it validates both travel (Toot) and adventures at home (Puddle) as equally exciting without creating a dichotomy of X is better than Y.
In the spirit of Toot and Puddle, as the child who has traveled far away, Ellie and I decided she should send a postcard. So last Friday after gymnastics, we stopped at the bookstore to buy a postcard.
Ellie examined several postcards. She’d look at one, shake her head and put it back…sometimes even in the right slot. Finally, after much serious debate, she found one that was perfect for CJ.
Ellie asked me to help her write the postcard, but she wanted to write the actual note to CJ. So I dotted out letters, much as they do at her pre-school, and she traced over them as best she could until her postcard was complete.
I copied over the note below her penmanship in case CJ or his parents had any trouble reading her note.
Then I addressed the postcard. We affixed a stamp on the postcard, put on our shoes, and headed out the door with Rhiannon and our friend, Eric to the nearby mailbox.
Ellie pushed the button to take us downstairs.
We waited at the busy intersection until the light changed. We crossed the street at the crosswalk.
We walked past a number of shops, including Ellie’s favorite place for chicken rice.
We turned the corner and walked past one of the many construction sites. Ellie and I waved to the construction uncles.
Then we saw the mailbox!
Ellie, with some help from Eric, mailed the letter.
We talked about how the letter is now making the long trip to Boston, and one day soon CJ will open his mailbox and find the postcard, just like Puddle got Toot’s postcards.
The 12 hour time difference and the hours we keep often make it tough to get the kids together for a Skype playdate, but Ellie really liked sending a postcard to her friend. It helps, I think, for her to know that her friends still think about her and are looking forward to seeing her again.
Maybe soon we’ll need to send out a few more!