Date: 28th February 2005
Subject: It’s a miracle
Place: Jerusalem, Whanganui River Road, New Zealand
It’s a miracle… losing the favourite toy
Pedalling our way up North Island we call in at the atmospheric Jerusalem, a convent set on the banks of the Whanganui River Road. It’s not a particularly easy place to find, on a stony road beside the Whanganui River. But it looks like it could be an even harder place to leave when one of the kids loses something both inconsequential and tremendously important.
A bedtime story
“Once upon a time, one bright sunny morning in a far away land called New Zealand there was a little dog who went to visit a convent.”
“A convent with nuns?” Matthew’s two big brown eyes gazed at his dad.
“Yes, a convent with nuns,” Stuart confirmed, continuing the bedtime story. “And in that convent, on one of the little old iron beds, Puppy found a lovely old teddy. And Puppy and Teddy really got on, in fact, Puppy liked the convent so much he wanted to stay and play forever. So he hid with the teddy until his owner left, then they both lived happily ever after in the beautiful convent on the hill.”
“With nuns?” said Matthew, beginning to drift off to sleep.
“Happily ever after with the nuns.”
Stuart kissed his son’s head; his story was done. Downstairs, he threw himself into a creaking armchair. “Put the kettle on, I need a stiff drink. Now where on earth has that stupid toy got to? We’ve got twelve hours to find it.”
Lost and not for the first time
It wasn’t the first time that Matthew’s toy dog had gone missing at a crucial moment. It had happened before on a cold night last November, only hours before we were due at Manchester airport. With everything efficiently packed up, the house looking immaculate and the tickets and passports safely in our wallets, we were frantically searching under beds, in cupboards and through toy boxes for the scraggy mutt. As Matthew slept, peacefully clutching the special passport he’d made for the pup, we abandoned our search in despair.
Luckily we found the happy puppy under the sofa in Matthew’s bedroom just minutes before we left for the airport. Puppy The Wuppy joined us on our Big Trip as planned, and Matthew never realised he had gone missing.
“Hello, my name’s Matthew and this is my dog.” Matthew greeted the tour guides as they led people through the convent at Jerusalem.
As always, Puppy The Wuppy ranked higher in Matthew’s affections than his little brother, who was left to create his own games in the endless convent rooms. As Cameron dived into cupboards and jumped on historic iron beds, Matthew played doctors and nurses with his beloved Puppy and an ancient teddy bear he found on one of the beds.
Look after lonely Teddy
Sister Sue, the resident nun, had asked Matthew to look after the lonely Teddy, “He gets very few hugs or visitors these days so give him lots of love.”
After two days of exploring the old building, and relaxing in its beautiful grounds, it was time to move on, and we packed up the buggies ready to leave. But there was someone missing.
“Where’s your pup?” I shouted to Matthew.
He had taken up with his brother once more, and they were shrieking around the quiet Rosary garden in a game of tag. Matthew looked about briefly, then shrugged and ran off. They carried on their game while Stuart and I searched under beds and in bedside cupboards for the puppy, and for teddy who had also gone missing.
“How are we going to tell him? He’ll never get over it,” I whispered to Stuart as we tucked the kids up for bed.
“I’ll tell him in a story at bedtime,” Stuart replied, his face grim.
It’s not just his favourite toy..
“It’s only a dog so why do I feel so gutted?” Stuart said, putting down the book he was reading about Padre Pio.
It was midnight, and we were catching a last few moments of peace after a full evening searching for the dog. I knew just how he felt. I couldn’t stop thinking about Puppy The Wuppy. I had really come to love the little guy, and he had became deeply connected with my memories of the boys over the last few months.
I thought back to South Island, to Puppy The Wuppy being sent down every slide before Matt and Cam to assess it’s level of scariness; to Matthew’s proud face when anyone asked his dog’s name; and to the boys flooding the toilets of the Havelock Youth Hostel after giving Puppy a secret bath in the sink.
Puppy The Wuppy had witnessed our family luge competition, our meetings with dolphins, kiwi’s and penguins; he had his own seat in restaurants and spent every night pressed into the face of his sleeping master.
Cameron too was fond of the dog, and particularly enjoyed bungy jumping the pup from the top bunk of every set of bunk beds they all shared. As we finished off our tour of South Island and sat in a bar overlooking Picton harbour, Puppy the Wuppy had toasted our success with his head in his pint, tired out by all the effort.
A desperate search
In our last hour at the convent we carried out a desperate final search. Stuart disappeared into the convent chapel while Cameron sleepily wandered around the kitchen with his bread and marmalade.
“Where’s Puppy The Wuppy Cameron?” Stuart gently asked him on his return to the kitchen.
Cameron walked up to a cupboard and opened it while we waited hopefully. “Puppy not in there,” he announced.
Stuart began systematically going through the hundreds of cupboards, while I went upstairs to wake Matthew, sure that there was no hope of finding the dog.
“You know we have to leave without your Pup this morning sweetheart. He seems to have joined the Sisters of Compassion.”
Matthew looked at me, then shook his head. “Well I hope it’s not going to be like Lamby. I don’t want five of them.”
He ran off to the toilet, leaving me floored by just how unbothered he was.
“Miracle…it’s a miracle!” Stuart’s voice suddenly rang out around the nunnery.
I ran back downstairs to find Cameron and Stuart jumping around the kitchen, hugging a little brown lump of stuffed dog.
They had found Puppy The Wuppy in a kitchen cupboard, tightly embraced by lonely Teddy who did not want to let his new playmate go. Puppy looked unscathed by both his disappearance and miraculous recovery, but Teddy was clearly freaked by the whole event; his eyes had popped out of his head and were hanging on wire stalks. Stuart and I were overjoyed at the prospect of living happily ever after with the dog. Matthew and Cameron were quite pleased too.
And so on our way once more…
As we left the convent we said goodbye to Sister Sue, one of the two nuns who ran the convent and church.
“We experienced a miracle this morning,” Stuart told her, “We lost our dog, but I had just read this book by Padre Pio, so I went and thought about him in the chapel and next thing…Puppy The Wuppy miraculously turned up, in a cupboard with teddy.”
Sister Sue glanced into the buggy, where our precious Puppy the Wuppy was being throttled as he hung by the neck out of an air hole.
“Good luck with your journey, I’ll be thinking of you,” she said kindly.
Puppy the Wuppy was to remain in his compromising position until lunchtime, when Cameron announced he was carrying some ‘treasure.’ In his grubby hand lay one of the antique teddy’s eyes. Padre Pio may have intervened on behalf of Puppy the Wuppy, but it was going to take a hefty miracle in this case to restore sight to the blind.