(No TPD or patriotism today; have my childhood instead)
When I was small, too small to remember much clearly, my parents took me to the best toy store in the universe. I remember my small mind being totally blown — this was a toy store with an ESCALATOR! And things hanging from the ceiling! I would have been completely flabbergasted by the New York location, their flagship store; this was a smaller satellite location in Union Square, SF.
While there, I picked out the best toy in the universe: a simple grey stuffed dog. My mother claims I named him “Dinah” at first, but later, when given a bright pink dog that gave birth, it was obvious to me he was a boy dog and the boyfriend of my new girl dog. His name, I decided was Pedey — and yes, I corrected my mother’s attempted spelling correction. It wasn’t Petey, it was spelled with a ‘d’. After all, why should my best friend have any less unusual a name than I had?
And he was my best friend. I was a lonely child; when I grew too big to carry him everywhere with me physically, he was with me in spirit, an imagined knee-high terrier with a wagging tail and a gay, springing gait. Cuddling him brought me sleep when it seemed otherwise to escape me; it was, I felt sure, because they’d mixed a little pixie dust into his stuffing, and my love and care kept the magic at full capacity. When I read His Dark Materials, I decided that he was my daemon and would talk to him in my mind on days when I had nobody else to talk to. When I read The Velveteen Rabbit, I started putting him out of my bed anytime I had the sniffles just in case it turned out to be Scarlet Fever. It would be great if he became real, but I’d miss him terribly.
I wasn’t always careful with him. One chilly winter night, I decided that my stuffies needed warmth as much as I did; as the favorite, he was ferried down the steps alone and given the best position near the heater while I fetched the others. Ten minutes later I was shocked to find that the fur on one of his floppy ears had burned black! Over the years, that ended up being picked off, leaving a large bald patch on one ear. His tail lost its spring and became more floppy; the stuffing moved out of his neck thanks to his constant “collar” made from a scrunchie, letting his head flop more. He was an old dog, I insisted. When his neck seam split, I carefully replaced the stuffing with the closest thing I had on hand — cotton balls — and gently stitched him back together with my newly developed cross-stitching skills. Needless to say, the row of neat ‘X’s split repeatedly, to be mended each time.
My mother liked to tell me I was too old for toys, and mock me — would I keep stuffies in my bed when I got married? (I’m getting married next year. My fiancee bought me one of the two bears that currently reside in my bed, and feels not the least bit uncomfortable with them being there. I sleep better cuddled up to soft things, and that’s the important thing.) As the years went on, I noticed his fragility more and more, and put him aside in favor of less valuable toys — I didn’t care if I threw up on, bled on, or ripped other, less important toys, so they got more attention. I took him with me to college, despite my mother’s teasing, and left him in my fiancee’s respectful hands when I went overseas, just in case.
Today, Chaos went to clear some bags and boxes out of the alcove with the washer/dryer hookups so that when our new washer/dryer are delivered tomorrow, there will be a place to put them. He found of all the things tossed there, one duffel bag was sopping wet. Inside, Pedey and one other toy were soaked and molding.
One thought keeps going through my head: he doesn’t deserve to end this way. I was careless and faithless, and I should put this to rights.
We’re looking into having him professionally restored and, along with a bundle of other cherished toys, donated to the children’s hospital nearby.
What relics do you all have of your childhoods?