Samantha Holmes, 20, was sitting in her bedroom trying to finish writing a paper for her criminology class last week when her dad walked in.
“Close your eyes and reach your hand in here,” Pat Holmes told her. She sighed, put her hand into her dad’s gym bag, and felt something plush. She pulled out a stuffed animal she’d given him when she was 2 years old.
“You still have it!” she said in disbelief.
She’d given it to him 18 years ago to have at work if he missed her. He’s been shuttling it to and from his law office ever since.
“Of course I still have it,” he told her.
Overwhelmed, she took a picture and posted it on social media. She added this note:
“When I was two I gave my Dad a stuffed beluga whale to keep in his work bag so that if he ever missed me he could hold it and think of me. 18 years later, my Dad has just informed me he still brings my beluga whale to work with him every day,” she wrote on Reddit.
Then she found out he also would tuck it in his luggage and bring it on business trips.
“I’ve taken it to work every single day I’ve gone to work,” Holmes, 56, of Vancouver said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I’d put it in my suitcase and not tell anybody it was there. And then I’d put it back in my gym bag.”
Neither father nor daughter remembers exactly how she gave him the stuffed animal, which actually is a turtle. Pat Holmes said he thinks the family had just visited a local aquarium. Neither of them even realized it was a turtle until people commenting on her Reddit post pointed it out.
Samantha Holmes, who is a college student, thought it was a beluga whale when she was 2, so it was known in the Holmes house as the beluga whale.
Pat Holmes said he generally didn’t take the turtle out of his bag at work, but he always made sure it was there. Its presence was comforting, he said, something tangible when he thought about his daughter and son, Jack, who is now 22.
“When she gave it to me, she told me to take it out if I felt lonely. I don’t like to be away from the kids, so I like to have it,” he said. “I think of it as a part of them being with me.”
He and his wife, Lisa, didn’t discuss the turtle, he said, but he’s pretty sure she knew he carried it with him.
Pat Holmes said he doesn’t recall having any stuffed animals as a kid.
“There were five kids in our house so if you had something, it wasn’t yours for very long,” he said. “If we did have something, it probably would have been a football or a baseball glove.”
He ended up showing his daughter the turtle last week because his gym bag “bit the dust” after 12 years, and he was switching to a new one. He thought it was a good time to tell her. They had spoken about the stuffed animal when she was young, but it hadn’t come up in many years. Still, she remembered it well. She said she was pretty surprised.
“He’s always been very sweet like that,” she said. Then she paused and added: “But that’s a long time.”
He said he didn’t think she’d be shocked by it because he’s always been a sentimental kind of guy.
“I like the family being together,” he said. “If a month has 30 days, we have dinner together 28 of them. It’s important to me.”
He said his family — siblings, nieces and nephews — goes to his mother’s house every Sunday night for dinner.
“You have good days and bad days,” he said. “But if you don’t have family, you have nothing else.”
For all those reasons, he said, he will continue to take the turtle to and from work.
His daughter thinks that’s pretty cool.
“You hear a lot of people don’t have a close relationship with their dads, or their dads aren’t really expressive,” Samantha Holmes said. “I’m really grateful for how close we are.”