Bless be the ties that bind comes from an old hymn written back in the 1800s. It’s been used in a variety of settings with its meaning applied to many situations. We experience all sorts of ties in a lifetime. Sometimes they are broken out of necessity, other times they are strengthened by purposeful or silly acts, binding us together in particularly precious ways that give us indescribable joy. This story applies to the latter.
When I was growing up, my mother’s idea of “being fair” to both her daughters was to never, ever show any sort of partiality. She was a proper, aristocratic, southern lady and thus, her gifts to us were as equal as she could possibly make them. Identical was ideal. I don’t think my sister liked it any more than I did, but she, being the good, older sister, said nothing, while I, being the much younger, “difficult one”, voiced my opinions. Loudly. I knew I was different and even before I knew what that meant, I wanted to be treated as an individual.
Sister and I were far enough apart in age that we really didn’t bond until long after we were adults and discovered we did indeed have some commonality, chief among them, a rather irreverent sense of humor. Where it came from I don’t know – our parents were both deadly serious musicians. But for us, there was – and is – nothing out of bounds. Later on, when we both remarried it was a good thing that we selected wise and secure men who were just as nutty as we were. The normal ones wouldn’t have survived our practical jokes laced with biting humor. Nothing was sacred. When we were together, there was rarely a dry eye as we screamed and cried over the silliest pranks and games.
One Christmas, years after I was on my own, my mother, true to her sense of fairness, purchased identical gifts for Sister and me – two little Lamb Chop puppets. They were duly named Flopsy and Mopsy. The little lambs arrived with my mother for the holidays. But I was determined. For once my sister was not going to have the same gift as mine.
When Christmas morning arrived, Mummy awoke to find the two little puppets sitting on her bed holding a large note scrawled in childish handwriting. The note begged “Grandmother” not to separate “The Little Chilrens” (must be pronounced with the proper southern inflection) making the case that they were bonded and fearful that one of them was going to be sent, alone, to live with – Oh No! – “The Mean Sisty Uggler.” (That was one of my sister’s more enduring nicknames, and just in case you wanted to know – mine was Two Sling Broken Arrow.)
Thus was born The Adventures of Flopsy and Mopsy and their faithful companion bear, Wyndom, seen in this rare family photograph. Theirs was a continual struggle to remain together no matter what dastardly deeds Sister cooked up. That first day alone after Sister and her husband arrived for the unwrapping of the presents followed by the traditional Christmas feast – all accompanied by very loud playing and singing of holiday music – Mopsy was discovered tied to the piano leg, blindfolded with a last cigarette dangling from her mouth. Flopsy was found suspended from the ceiling fan by a hangman’s noose. The attached note declared that without the other one, life was not worth living. During dinner they were seated at the dinner table and added much to the lively conversation, helped along by all of us in various, high-pitched voices. I will always remember the look on Mummy’s face as she quietly chuckled at the silly antics of her two grown daughters. No doubt she wondered if her children had been switched at birth.
Over the years “The Little Chilrens” endured indescribable hardships and at times, downright deprivation. The first time they were “kidnapped,” threatening messages were left on our answering machine. Omonous ransom notes composed with cut-out words from newspaper type began arriving in the office fax machine, much to the consternation of the staff. Signs declaring “lost chilrens” were tacked on utility poles around Sister’s neighborhood.
On one occasion they were missing without a word for months, finally reappearing at my nephew’s house in Ft. Benning, Georgia. They were wearing camouflage jump suits with parachutes and army berets, and had settled into their very own high chairs to await Thanksgiving dinner. Then there was the time they arrived home in an unmarked box, courtesy of the snail mail post office . Outfitted in warm winter sweaters, they had been salmon fishing in Alaska with their own fishing gear and little cow bells hanging around their necks – the later to ward off the great Alaskan bears.
During the last weeks of my mother’s life, I brought them to her bedroom, telling her that Flopsy and Mopsy had come to be with her, because they knew she wasn’t feeling well. It was one of the last smiles Mummy gave me as she drifted in and out of consciousness. At her memorial service Flopsy and Mopsy honored that somber occasion by wearing little black ribbons. They were seated with us in the front pew of the church. We mostly avoided the hostile stares of the church members, Sisters of the Eastern Star and four generations of Mummy’s piano students, none of whom thought there was any humor to be found at a funeral. We knew better. I’m confident that she was quietly chuckling.
The point of my story is that the adventures of Flopsy and Mopsy have brought our extended family together in so many wonderful ways. Everyone knows about “The Little Chilrens” and often inquire about their adventures. When my husband’s children joined our family, there was some serious skepticism afoot, but I like to think that Flopsy and Mopsy went a long way towards bonding our blended family. Since coming to California “The Little Chirens” have been safe and snug, perched atop our bedroom bookcases, proudly wearing their Boston Red Sox batting helmets – a gift from our daughter, Auntie Rachel.
Yes, it’s all been relatively quiet – that is until this past week. After a visit from a certain person – you know who you are – I found the bookcase shelf empty. I have my suspicions. The last person to see them alive and well was…well, I’m sad and grieved to admit it was their Auntie Rachel.
I do so hate to say it, but Auntie Rachel has, of late, displayed some rather disturbingly similar traits to her Auntie Catherine…The Mean Sisty Ugler. Do you get my drift? I suppose it’s too much to expect that just because they both reside in New England, and just because we are now so far away, that perhaps they have bonded. You know how it is, out of sight out of mind. Well that doesn’t give her the right to terrorize innocent children and tear them away from a loving home. So if you see this woman, do not be deceived by her outwardly kind demeanor or her sly wit. Do not approach her. Just contact The Family. We know how to handle these people.
But now I’m wondering. Could it be that they … went willingly? I realize there was a bit of jealously last year when cousin Flat Stanley was having such awesome adventures – logging in over 30,000 miles for Elijah’s project. Sigh. Sibling rivalry. It can we so hurtful.
I suppose all we can do now is wait, and hope that they’re off on another exciting adventure and that we’ll be getting word any day now. We’ve established a Facebook page in the hopes that some of their friends may offer some clues as to their whereabouts. If this story has touched your heart, up-to-date bulletins will be periodically posted at Flopsy Mopsy Moritz Facebook page. We’re all praying for a safe return.
Maybe the California Desert is just to “retiring” for Flopsy and Mopsy. I know, I know. I’m second guessing myself but I just can’t help it. Maybe it’s the heat out here. They do have to wear those little wool suits.