With a Little Help From Her Friends: On Twitter, Ringo Starr, and the Kindness of Strangers
How losing a doll led to a modern-day Philly (by way of Liverpool) fairytale
“Excuse me, has anyone returned a lost doll?”
“Aww, she lost her doll? Was it, like, a Barbie?”
“No… it was like… Ringo Starr.”
My 4-year-old daughter Maya, like so many preschoolers, loves to watch her favorite movie over and over again — as well as sing its songs, play make-believe with its story, and carry around a well-loved doll of a favorite character. In her case, that movie is the 50-year-old psychedelic adventure Yellow Submarine. And while a Beatles soundtrack makes for an infinitely more enjoyable car ride than “Elmo’s Song,” Ringo Starr dolls aren’t exactly sitting on the Target shelves next to that cheerful red Muppet.
Months before Maya’s fourth birthday, she declared that she wanted a Yellow Submarine birthday. I held off buying supplies, thinking kids go through phases, and by the time it came for the party she might select a different theme (perhaps one easier to decorate). Maya’s obsession only grew, and we put together the party of her dreams, complete with a child-sized cardboard cutout submarine. It was a unique change of pace, to say the least. To top it off, we tracked down a plush Ringo (by far her favorite Beatle) as a gift.
The two were inseparable. She built a little drum kit out of buckets and they would play it with pencils (I’d accompany on her little pink ukulele when she assigned me to be George). She would introduce herself to people as “Ringo! I play drums!” and would ask them if they knew about this little band called The Beatles. Ringo was Maya’s show-and-tell at school, her snuggle friend at night, and her partner-in-crime everywhere else.
Fast forward a month, to our frantic search around the Jefferson Hospital campus last week. She had brought Ringo with her to an appointment, and halfway home we realized he was missing. So we walked back the exact route we came, scanning the sidewalks, calling the market we had visited after her appointment, running around the Nemours offices asking for Ringo.
He was gone. She was inconsolable.
We tried searching online, but the few listings we found seemed targeted more at “wealthy eccentric collector who keeps the doll in a box” than “toddler needs a plus one for the sandbox.” In a final long shot, I decided to tweet out a picture of her missing doll, thinking that Jefferson is a huge presence in the city and maybe one of my followers might work there or have a visit and notice the distinctive doll lying around.
My phone began blowing up with notifications. Hundreds of people (most of whom I didn’t know) retweeted me, imploring their followers to #FindRingo. A video was made, conversations ensued, well wishes were sent, and some people even tweeted at Sir Ringo Starr himself. From members of the media to good old Phillies Twitter, I was amazed at how many people seemed to care about a random little girl and her missing doll.
The next morning, I received a reply from a fellow Philly parent:
In shock and with a full heart, I messaged our hero, Steve Harrell. As we talked, he told me about his own little Beatles fan, his 3-year-old son Van. This adorable little boy has an entire Beatles figurine collection, attended Rain in John Lennon-style glasses, and also loves Yellow Submarine. Then he sent me a picture from Van’s last birthday.
It was the same cardboard submarine! Clearly, these kids were two of a kind, and we had to get them together. A couple days later, I get a message that “Ringo has landed,” and we make arrangements to meet at a café — the only repayment they would dream of accepting was a cake pop for Van, because apparently I was now living in the most adorable fairy tale populated by kind people and great music.
I tried to prepare Maya that a little boy she doesn’t know wanted to help her because he also loves The Beatles, and had found her a new Ringo.
On Sunday morning, she selected her finest Yellow Submarine dress, drew a picture of Ringo for her new friend, and grabbed her Sgt. Pepper’s jacket on our way out the door.
Van arrived with his family, also in his Beatles best, and presented her with a new Ringo and a giant hug. He had also brought a little yellow submarine-shaped lunchbox filled with his prized collection of Yellow Submarine figurines. Over cake pops, the two played with the toys and of course, talked about their beloved Fab Four.
Parenting is simultaneously a joy and a challenge every single day. We work to build our proverbial “village” in the city, but there are still moments that can feel isolating. In a sensitive preschooler’s world, something like losing a favorite toy really feels like a crisis, and while we try to teach our kids to be grateful and resilient, it is hard not to absorb some of their helplessness in the moment. But sometimes when we reach out, amazing things can happen.
I am so thankful that Maya has her Ringo again, but more importantly I am so thankful to have met these wonderful people who went out of their way for a complete stranger, and who are raising such a kind and unique little person. And I can’t wait for more Philly adventures with these two little soulmates.