There are few cherished things in my daughter's life: cereal bars, bubbles, her Hello Kitty T-shirt, and a pair of dirt-covered, once-pink Velcro shoes.
They've caused heartache because she can't hold the bubble soap, her shirt must be washed, her shoes must come off. She eats cereal bars every day, would eat them for every meal if she could.
But they are not her Minnie Mouse watering can: a $10 piece of pink plastic -- her favorite of favorites.
She carries it to school, brings it into the bathtub. She waters our flowers, pretends to make coffee. It sits next to her as she eats her dinner. She holds it while I secure a ponytail, as she watches Sesame Street.
She doesn't yet know about the enchanted world of Disney, but two months ago she saw Minnie Mouse. She sat propped in a little girl's room of a house we'd soon buy, looked at us cheerily with her wide eyes and happy grin.
"Who THAT?" Tegan asked, awestruck.
"That's Minnie Mouse."
"MIDDY MOUSE!" It was an epiphanic moment.
Tegan talked about "Middy Mouse" until we moved in, until she climbed the steps calling out to her, ran into an empty room hoping to find her.
"Where Middy Mouse, Mommy?"
It was one of those moments were I wished something could magically materialize in my hands.
We found Mini a few weeks later on a pink, plastic watering can. She looked up at us bashfully, swung on a chain of watering cans at a gardening center.
"MIDDY MOUSE!!!" Tegan was elated.
She did a victory dance as I handed her the watering can, looked at it like it was magical. She held it the whole way home, as I got her ready for bed. She wanted to put it under the covers with her at night.
Every day she patiently waters our vegetable garden, the annuals my dad planted in our yard. She brings the watering can to school, shows it to our neighbors, exclaims that it is beautiful.
In the off chance you'd like to feel like a horrible person, you're welcome to take it away from her.
Because she's watered the garden three times. Because you move Mini to a different part of the dinner table. Because you try to help her while she's trying to hold her sippy cup, sunglasses, and (now crumpling) finger painting from school.
Her face will turn skyward. There will be an open-mouthed wail, eyes squeezing shut, tears streaming. She will look at you, pained, say "Don't take it away!" or "Not nice!" in such a way that you feel like you've just eaten her last cereal bar, the last cereal bar on the planet.
And then you will hug her, kiss her tears as you pick your heart off the ground.
You will distract her, get her laughing.
And then you will feel thankful. Thankful that she so appreciates the little things.
Like making water flow. Helping flowers to grow. A smiling mouse. Polka dots. The color pink.
If only we could all have such simple joys.
She's my best -- and most lovely -- reminder.