Meet Pablo. He’s lived in our house for so long that I forget most of you probably know him already as the beloved bow-tied ringleader of The Backyardigans. When Phoebe was little, she and her sister were obsessed with the show, about five friends seeking out imaginary adventures in their backyard, breaking into song and dance routines as they do so. Those songs! Wow. How do I even reckon with them? For three years, they were the soundtrack to my life, a never-ending loop on the car’s DVD player and in our collective family brain, following me everywhere. (I remember playing the punk-inspired “Soccer Monster” for a co-worker and saying to him, “How good is that? I mean really good, right?”)
During this period, when Phoebe was four or five, and about as deeply tunneled down the Backyardigans rabbit hole as a kid could get, we gave her a stuffed Pablo for Christmas, the little guy you are looking at above. She slept with him that night, and the night after that, and the night after that, and the years and years that followed. Even as she moved on to SpongeBob, iCarly, Gilmore Girls, and, these days, Lost she never moved on from her sleeping companion. Pablo the Backyardigan became her First Official Lovey.
The guy has had a few rough patches: He lost his signature bowtie and propeller cap in a washing machine incident, and a 2013 ambush by the family dog left him a one-legged amputee. (There was one successful operation, but then another terrier attack, and now we are waiting for the surgical team to procure the right color suture.) For the most part, though, Pablo has led a pretty enviable life: sleeping next to someone who loves him every night; regularly hanging out with celebrities like Tintin’s Snowy and Calvin & Hobbes‘ Calvin; and once, back in 2011, even traveling overseas with the family. “He’s always wanted to see England,” a 9-year-old Phoebe told me earnestly when I expressed my shock over Pablo venturing out of the house for the first time ever.
All this by way of explanation for the inevitable mortifying moment when someone discovers the above framed watercolor portrait on Phoebe’s dresser. Actually it’s not there yet. I’m giving it to her for Valentine’s Day. (Shhhhhh!) Seriously, what better holiday to commemorate the role of a lovey? Specifically when it’s your kid’s 14th Valentine’s Day, and when you feel as though her First Official Lovey’s days may perhaps be numbered due to forces more powerful than a 16-pound Boston Terrier. Aka, high school.
I am not the first one to come up with this idea. When I was a magazine editor, someone wrote about hiring a painter to create formal portraits of their kids’ most prized stuffed animals. The idea of a teddy bear “sitting” for a formal portrait had me in stitches, even as I mercilessly mocked the whole thing. A FORMAL PORTRAIT! Who on earth would spend money (let alone time!) on painting a dumb toy?
That was before my parental forgiveness muscle was properly developed and before I knew my kids would actually grow up. It was also before my friend Robin introduced me to the Waterlogue App ($2.99!) which transforms any photograph into a watercolor painting with the swipe of a finger. (For a Christmas present, Robin had done this with a photograph of her father’s house, then printed it on heavy stock for personalized notecards. Genius!) So last weekend, while the girls were out, Pablo and me? We had a little photo shoot. I selected the best shot, Waterlogued it, printed it on felt paper (Via brand), then picked up a frame at Marshall’s for $3.99. Cute right? I just hope Snowy’s not too jealous.
Valentine’s Day? Forget Chocolate
Easiest Homemade Valentine’s Day Cards (featuring that vicious Boston Terrier!)
More Semi-Homemade Valentine’s Day Cards (a classic that I can’t take any credit for)
Sweetheart Pizzas (omg ilysm!)