Do you still have any of your stuffed animals? Baby boomers are old enough now that most of us probably have moved around a bit, and downsized, and done whatever people do when they deliberately or inadvertently shed some of their childhood possessions. But not Seattle’s Carolyn Righi. She has thirteen stuffed animals, and is proud to say so.
When I was a tween, I hated it when my mom didn’t “act her age”— singing in the car, sneaking out for ice cream, even wearing “mom jeans.” They all were so embarrassing to me, I just hoped none of my friends would see us. Now, I’m older than she was then, and I am still lovingly caring for 13 stuffed animals (aka plush toys), some of which are recently acquired. I feel bad singling any of them out, but let me tell you about a couple of them.
I’d like to start with Crookedy Bear. Back when I was 21, I had braces for the 2nd time, and had just started to date a new guy. We went to a neighborhood carnival and I was not happy— my teeth hurt and I was so aggravated that I looked like a doofus! On a date!! And I was whining about it!!! Which just made things worse. My date, who was definitely not a let-me-show-off-for-you type, won a little white bear for me at an arcade game in an effort to cheer me up. The bear was not very furry, and definitely not symmetrical, but I was so touched at the gesture that Crookedy Bear became an instant favorite. And so did the guy– I married him!
I’m not sure when or how Flat Kitty came into my life, but she became my companion when I traveled on business. When I was 42 and took Flat Kitty to France, I noticed she was missing from my room when I returned at the end of the first day. I was already feeling like an inelegant, awkward American; was I willing to embarrass myself to get her back?
After sleeping on it, I decided the answer was Yes. I talked with the super-chic 20-something concierge the next morning and explained what happened. Luckily she was a kindred spirit. She got tears in her eyes and said she’d do what she could. When I got back to the hotel later that day, there was a little plush bear waiting for me. But it wasn’t Flat Kitty. No offense to the new bear, but he was a poor substitute. But on the following day, at last, Flat Kitty was back. She’d had an adventure in the washing machine, having been caught up in the sheets when they changed the bed. (Did I mention that I slept with her when I travelled?)
I often used to wonder if I should get rid of my animals altogether, or put them in storage, or at least hide them when acquaintances came over. Wasn’t it time I started to act my age?