I was never really enamored with childhood. It didn’t seem, even at the time, as though it had much to recommend it, unless you liked having to do whatever taller people told you to do, and watching your peers try to cram cheese up their noses. Ever since I was 5 or 6, I loved the idea of being a grown-up. I used to watch movies from the 1930’s and 40’s and flip my hair over and over to try to mimic Gilda. I liked to practice saying “I will have a martini, Joe” because I felt like it would be a good thing to be ready to say.
And you know what? I was on to something. Being an adult is terrific. If you’re into that kind of thing, it means high heels, tailored dresses, New Yorker subscriptions, good champagne whenever you want/can afford it, and dinner parties with fresh flowers. All of which seem ridiculous when attempted by children, especially because of the way 6 year olds are always getting such feeble carnations for their dinner parties (and why do they always serve ortolan? Because they’re unoriginal? Do they not have enough crayons take to take proper notes in their hostess books?). Really – being a grown-up is wonderful. It is as wonderful as it seemed in the movies.
The only downside is that you are expected to give up your stuffed animals.
When I was about 6, I asked my mother at what point I would, as a grown-up, have to relinquish them. “I imagine when you’re 18,” she replied. “Not when I get married?” I asked. I was down to haggle. “Maybe, if you found a very considerate husband,” she replied, but it was clear that 18 was the correct answer.
18 came and went. 7 years later, Spikeroll is still around.
Spikeroll and I have been buddies since one day in the Hallmark shop when I was five. He was in a plastic bin. A plastic bin was no place for such a handsome alien. He was neon green, and had gold stars all over his belly. I liked how he was weird. I liked how he seemed like he didn’t even know that he had shiny stars all over him, his head just tilted up, looking so gentle and quizzical. I liked him because, unlike the assembly line of Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls, he seemed like he had character. And he seemed like he was looking at the sky, and he wanted to go home. I stood in the Hallmark store and stared at him for a really long time, which was then, and remains now, the closest I can come to articulating desire. My nanny came over and said “you know, if you want something you can ask for it, and you can generally have it.” This was maybe the most untrue statement ever uttered by anyone. “I would like to give him a home,” I replied.
And so I did.
We didn’t play all that much. Mostly, I talked to him. About things. From what I recall, things hinged largely on nuclear war and what would happen if we accidentally time traveled back to the Holocaust. We talked about these things because, bizarrely, these are the topics of many books marketed towards children. The answer was always “bad stuff, probably.” [tagbox tag="childhood"]
I also liked to clutch him in my arms and roll down staircases.
It goes without saying that it was a very long time before I had many human friends to talk to.
Although I did make some, later. Many of whom would probably be surprised to realize that every day, when making my bed in the morning, I tuck Spikeroll up against the pillow. My defense that lots of people have decorative throw pillows, and this is essentially the same. It doesn’t carry that much weight, even in my head. But I can’t help it. That’s how I’ve made my bed since I was six. My bed wouldn’t even look made without him there.
All of which, needless to say, would be mortifying if people came over too often. When they do, I hide him. I hide him behind a copy of War and Peace, because that is a book no one ever casually pulls out to thumb through.
God, life is going to be so hard when everyone switches over to Kindles.
He was only found out once, a few years ago, when someone I was seeing dropped by unexpectedly. The fellow was very sweet about it, Spikeroll being all propped up like some chartreuse paramour. Whenever I think about that fellow, I always think “that boy is going to make a very considerate husband one day.”
I do realize that this wouldn’t a problem if I was the kind of person who put their childhood toys away in a box. I can’t put Spikeroll away in a box. He wouldn’t even be able to breathe in there.
You think I’d resign Spikeroll to the same fate as Ryan Reynolds in That Ryan Reynolds Trapped In A Box Movie Where Ryan Reynold’s Every Facial Twitch Indiciates He – Hilariously – Believes He Will Win An Oscar? You are an asshole. What would happen when Spikeroll woke up to do the things stuffed animals do when you are out of the house? I mean, presumably dance parties/non-box things. He would freak out.
Logically, I do realize that these are not actual concerns. I know that if Spikeroll was somehow secretly, stealthily animate then he’d have already flinched when I sewed all the patches on him, so he could continue to support himself aided by a champagne flute (if Spikeroll had any other stuffed animals to talk to, they’d refer to this as his cane, while chortling and smoking cigars at their dance parties). But seriously. I’m not trapping him a box. People have decorative throw pillows. It’s the same thing.
And the other option? That whole Toy-Story-3-give-him-away-to-younger-children thing? Are you joking? Everything else aside, Spikeroll is kind of beat up. In human years, he’s about Struldbrug. I had to draw his eyes on with a ballpoint pen. I have to do this on a semi-regular basis. I’m pretty sure kids aren’t going to be thrilled. Even odds, they’d immediately tear his head off. And then I would die on the inside.
But I think the real reason I can’t give him up isn’t just because his spikes are so dapper, or I really like drawing eyeballs on things, although I think both of those facts are indisputably true. The reason I can’t give him up is because I can’t quite give up the part of myself that spent so many hours sitting around talking to him. There’s still a part of me that’s a weird little girl rolling down stairs, and I suppose, no matter how many martinis, I order or how well I flip my hair, that part is always going to be there.
And I’m not unhappy about that, really.
When I was young I thought you turned 21 and suddenly you were this whole new person. As if in one night you went to sleep a cabbage patch kid and woke up a Barbie doll. And the sort of wonderful-horrible thing about aging is that it’s not that way at all. If anything, growing up is like being one of those Russian Dolls, all the smaller, younger parts hidden away inside of you, replaced by something bigger and shinier, but still there. Nothing’s ever really lost. At best, we hide the weirdest parts of ourselves away behind Tolstoy. But I hope we still give them a home.