It was bedtime when the Moon family realized Rosie was missing.
Caitie Moon was tucking her daughter Grace into bed when the 5-year-old asked for her beloved stuffed bunny. Where had Rosie gone? It had been a long, hectic day as the family of five flew back from visiting relatives in Michigan. Caitie and her wife, Kacie Moon, searched all through their Parkville home and car that night in late summer, finally coming to the conclusion that they must have left Rosie in the Detroit airport.
Despite cuddles and reassurances from her mothers, little Grace cried herself to sleep. “I’m so sorry, Rosie,” they heard her murmur. It was just three sleeps until Grace started kindergarten. How could her moms get Rosie back?
Grace can’t remember a time when she did not snuggle to sleep with Rosie, who was sewn by one of her great-grandmothers many years ago from a blanket belonging to Grace’s great-great-grandmother, who was also named Rosie. Rosie the bunny spent decades in a box of Easter decorations. But a few years ago, Grace saw something special in her pink nose and inquisitive black eyes.
On that day, Rosie started a new life as the constant companion of the little girl, romping on playgrounds and visiting the chickens at Cromwell Valley Park, the stains on her floppy white ears a testament to their adventures together. The bunny once wore a long pink gown, but after Grace loved that to tatters, she has sported a plaid shirt and jeans, hand-me-downs from a doll.
“I like that she’s a bunny,” said Grace. “I was sad that we lefted her behind.”
The morning after Rosie’s disappearance, Caitie Moon, 33, started working the phones. Grace recalled setting Rosie down at an airport smoothie stand, but no one answered the phone there or at the number for lost-and-found. Caitie emailed the airport and received a reply that no floppy white bunnies had been found. In desperation, she posted about Rosie in a Facebook group for Baltimore moms.
The mothers sprang into action.
One enlisted her husband, who was traveling through Detroit for work, to stop at the smoothie stand. A worker told him that she had indeed found the bunny and handed it over to a security worker. An important clue!
Meanwhile, Caitie and Kacie Moon and their two older children, Luke, 9, and Jack, 8, tried to reassure Grace that Rosie was on a grand adventure. “We made up a whole story about how Rosie loves traveling and smoothies and wanted to spend more time in the smoothie shop,” said Caitie, a web designer.
The weekend ended and Grace headed off to her first day of kindergarten, confident that Rosie would return. Her mothers were not so sure.
“The whole time she just trusted that we would get Rosie back for her, which was really overwhelming for me as a mom,” said Caitie Moon. “She kept saying things like, ‘I can’t wait to tell Rosie about kindergarten.’ And there were a few nights she woke up crying for Rosie.”
The Facebook group members continued to strategize. Some searched for similar bunnies or suggested books to comfort Grace, such as Mo Willems’ “Knuffle Bunny,” the story of another well-loved bunny who gets left behind at a laundromat. One group member, Emily Weber of Original Northwood, reached out to her mother-in-law, Barbara Sale, in suburban Detroit.
Sale, 70, has spent half her life teaching children in preschool, kindergarten and first grade, both in the United States and abroad. “I have such a heart for children who are attached to things,” she said. “Emily gave up her lovey before she was ready. Mine was lost. We both remember the sadness of that.”
Over the years, dozens of children had confided in Sale their sorrow in losing special toys. “This is such a universal experience of childhood,” she said. “And finally I had a chance to help a child in this situation.”
A retiree, Sale spent the better part of a morning on the phone until she reached a real person at the airport security office. She got detailed directions on how to reach the terminal where lost objects are stored and made the 30-minute drive to the airport.
At the lost-and-found, Sale described Rosie and a worker disappeared into a back room. A few minutes later, the worker returned triumphant; Rosie had been found. Sale sent the good news to the Moons, then took Rosie home and packed her in a long cardboard box for her journey.
Back in Parkville, the Moons wrote a letter to Grace from Rosie, explaining that she had gotten lost after lingering in the smoothie shop. “Thankfully, you have a lot of people that love you and they sent a grandma to come look for me. She found me right away,” it said. “I will be there a few days after this letter. I just wanted you to know I’m coming home and not to worry.”
The very next day, Rosie arrived. The Moons put her in a gift bag and placed it in the yard for Grace to find.
“Rosie?!” exclaimed the little girl, lifting sheets of tissue paper. “Rosie is in there!”
Since then, Grace has held Rosie very tightly, Caitie Moon said. She has overheard her daughter catching up Rosie on the first days of kindergarten. The bunny is not allowed to go to school with Grace, but waits at home to hear tales of recess and circle time.
And while Rosie is none the worse for her adventure, there’s a certain look in her sewn-on black eyes that suggests she is grateful to be back in the arms of the little girl who loves her — thanks to some caring strangers.