For a four-year-old with a lust for life, it was love at first sight the moment Amelia clapped her eyes on the bright pink hog mascot who was working the room at her cousin’s birthday party.
She spotted his towering porcine frame from across the restaurant, and a feverish light went on in her eyes as though candle-lit from the inside.
To me, this novelty hog looked like a reject from the puppet cast of Sesame Street – a little too grotesque, too cut-price, to ever really make it ‘where the air is free’.
But who cares what I thought of his polyester charms? Not my daughter.
Amelia careened across the room to meet him and gazed up at his curved, white tusks and incongruous sunglasses (I mean, indoors, I ask you).
She didn’t wait for a sign or a green light, she just leapt into his furry arms and held on tight. It was the embrace of long-lost love, of the hog you’ve waited for your whole life but never dared dream you’d meet on a Sunday night at Highpoint Shopping Centre.
Possessed by her need to keep him close, Amelia placed his arm over her little shoulders and they took a turn around the restaurant like a King and Queen greeting their subjects with restrained magnanimity.
The hog-King (in reality a jester) was clearly on an hourly retainer to bust some sweet dance moves for the receptive child diners. Amelia joined hands with him and twirled, moonwalked and swivelled her tiny hips in perfect time, a graceful partner in this modern ham-hock jive.
When it was time for the hog’s smoko break, my girl was bereft and sat in the hallway near the kitchen awaiting his eventual return.
I had to find a way to prevent her from searching for him in the off-restaurant space behind the ‘do not enter’ sign.
So, I broke that covenanted rule about not telling a lie, either white or black, to your child and said, “Amelia, your friend’s gone to the toilet but he’ll be back soon so please come and sit down with us at the table”.
For a moment, I thought I had broken through her Pepé Le Pew-style pursuit of the party mascot until she signed to me that she would also like to go to the toilet.
I gave Amelia the benefit of the doubt and escorted her into the cubicles. But I had been hoodwinked by a master because she dashed ahead of me and started beating on the closed toilet doors, looking for her true pig-love, and calling, “Hello? Hello?”
Good one, Mum. Lord knows what the women in the locked cubicles made of it.
I dragged her outside and explained the truth that this time she just had to wait it out. The poor hog was tired from all of his grooving and greeting and needed a well-earned breather.
This story she was prepared to accept but her eyes never left the kitchen corridor, willing him with all her steely might to return.
When the novelty hog finally reappeared, Amelia ran to him for another long hug and bless that person behind the fluffy pink costume, he did not break free until she was done.
And then they danced once more and paused to capture the moment on film, to freeze in time some joy amidst the evening chaos.
The hog lifted his thumb in mute approval and Amelia did the same – they were at one in this as they were on the dance floor and for a moment in her little girl’s heart, filled to the brim with love for a hog with no name.