• Mon, Jan 23 2012

I’m Never Giving Up My Childhood Stuffed Animal

childhood stuffed animal

Spikeroll, just chilling in the sophisticated way he likes to chill.

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.

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  • NotThumper

    I love this piece because I completely understand where you are coming from. If one is supposed to surrender their stuffed animals at 18 then I clearly did not get the memo. I had quite the collection of stuffed Eeyore’s growing up. Some inhabit plastic bins until I have a place to display them and others are on loan to my daughter.
    I also had a beautiful handmade blanket as a child that was so popular with me that at present day it’s now just a knotted mess of string. My mother joked that I’d walk down the aisle with that thing because I had it so long. For giggles I pulled a thread out of it and wrapped it discreetly in my bouquet on my wedding day. I still have it but I no longer require it, I just can’t seem to get rid of it, or any of my stuffed animals.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Eeyore was the best! I spent my entire childhood wanting to tell him jokes! Also, I love that it made it into your bouquet.

  • Kj

    I have a pile of Beanie Babies and a Little Mermaid poster in my childhood room that AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE, EVER. (Except maybe someday I will donate the Beanie Babies to my future grandchildren to play with/chew on, while visiting me at my future palatial estate.)

    …but Hoot, my first Beanie Baby, is not going nowhere, never. Hoot will probably be buried with me.

    And if a guy doesn’t like it, he can leave.

    Hilariously enough, my parents both each have a couple stuffed animals that they have acquired (long after being adults and having kids) and keep around the house, and my boyfriend has a bear.

    I think it’s good to keep around reminders of the simpler times of childhood.

    • NotThumper

      @ Kj
      My mom still has Beanie Babies. Some are in a container that slides under the bed but the bears are all proudly displayed in cases. :)

      My husband also has stuffed animals from his childhood. Most are put away but we do still have them. The Disney ones are around the house though. Then again, this is also a man who (while we were dating) would build me a bear every Valentines Day. LOL!

      PS-LOVE Hoot!!

  • Save1Star

    25. Still have my teddy bear on my bed. I’ve had him since I was 2 months old and his name is Teddy (original, I know). Bringing him to college was the true test of our friendship- after some snickering my new guy friends got over it and he became a normal part of campus life. He also followed me on my study abroad program and through several post-college apartments.

    I have no intentions of ever saying goodbye to my bear. After all we’ve been through and the mess I’ve made of him no one would ever love him like I do :)

  • Megan

    I still have my childhood stuffie, too!

    My parents gave me my Mousepot when I was born. They’d place him in the corner of my crib, and baby me would squirm over to him so I could sleep with my head up against his tummy.

    28 years, college, a husband, and a kid of my own later, I still sleep with my head tucked against Mousepot. He smells good! He’s security for me, and my husband could not care less.

    You keep Spikeroll! Anyone who can’t handle your childhood stuffie isn’t worth your time. :)

  • Chickalupe

    This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in quite some time. I too still have a stuffed animal resting on my pillow, though I have been above the age of “adulthood” for years now; and your gorgeous imagery of the Russian Doll of the inner-child will be how I justify myself from now on. Thank you. <3

  • Bella

    I can totally relate to this article.
    I sleep with a big pink stuffed hippo.
    He has gone with me to the other side of the world and back,
    and not a night goes by where I wrap my arm around him and feel a definite comforting feeling come over me.
    He is a constant, a reminder, a treasure,
    He is my hippo.
    Bella xox
    http://www.chicinvancity.com/

  • Elizabeth

    I’m 31 and married, and I still have Apples the horse on my bed. I’ve never hidden him behind things, though. He’s too big. Anyway, everyone knows he’s there. I don’t think a visitor has ever said anything untoward about him. He’ll be there forever.

  • Lo

    I’m 22 and still have the stuffed Pooh Bear my sister gave me when I was born. He temporarily lives on a desk chair, though, because I don’t quite trust our new kitten to not claw/chew on him yet. But yep, tucking him in has been a part of the morning routine for a long time.

    The best part? My live-in boyfriend still has his teddy bear, too, so Pooh has a friend to snuggle with now.

  • Arnie

    One of the hardest things about moving to America for a year was that I didn’t have space in my bag to bring Beartrix. He was given to me when I was born and named by my father, and has been through many traumatic surgeries.
    He will always be my one true love, and shall never belong in some awful box.

  • Steph

    I still have my stuffed animals. I have a whole collection of Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals at home that I refuse to let my parents give away. I’ll take them back when I have children. For now I have a few stuffed animals lying around our house, and while my husband may joke about it every once and awhile, he’s never made me give them away. If he did, there would be an argument. I don’t sleep with them in my bed anymore, but I’ll always treasure them.

  • Michelle

    I still have my bear Jeffery that was given to me when I was born. He survived college and grad school but when I brought the bear with me to move in with my husband, he was not very understanding about it. It’s not that I need to sleep with the bear it’s more comfortable to prop my head up while in bed. Sigh, men just don’t understand…

  • Jodi

    I’m 34 and still have Bozo, an orange, very decrepit dog my Nana gave me the day I was born. He’s missing both eyebrows (yes, orange dogs have eyebrows) and his nose, courtesy of my childhood golden retriever Claude, who loved to carry Bozo around simply because I loved Bozo and Claude loved me. Bozo’s ear is a bit wonky now because my mother couldn’t sew it at the proper angle, but only my mother is allowed to repair him when he needs it. Bozo still sleeps in my bed and has been all over the world with me. I don’t bother to hide him. If anyone has a problem with my one keepsake from my grandmother who passed away years ago, they aren’t the kind of people I want to be friends with anyway.

  • Lauren

    I have an Eeyore collection too! Eeyore was the best one. I still have a stocking that has Eeyore on it that sings We Wish You A Merry Christmas very slowly. It was always slow in his Eeyore Voice, but I’m pretty sure it’s slower now. But I love it.

    I also love that you put a piece of your blanket in the bouquet. That’s such a great idea!

    • NotThumper

      I have that stocking! He still sounds exactly like he did the day I got him. I’ve got a ton of Eeyore stuff. A bank, mugs, picture frames, plushes, figurines, beanies, pins, had a jacket and sweat shirts long ago, also stationary. I think I still have an Eeyore watch too. :) Most of that stuff I still have and is on display in my daughter’s room but most of the plushes are in storage. I do drink my coffee out of an Eeyore mug though!

  • Lo

    This is the best thing I’ve read for quite a while. I’m now picturing dozens of Barbies waking up in the cabbage patch, confused and probably hungover.

    I have a floppy, bead-filled platypus. When the boyfriend first saw her, he picked her up properly, like you’d pick up a real animal. It was a good sign.

  • Sarah

    I’m totally on the same page with you on this. I still have my puffalump, Tiffany, that I got when I was 4. Now I’m 28, in medical school, living with my fiance, and she’s still on the bed all the time. One item on my list of reasons why fiance is one of my favorite people is the fact that he has never said a word about my ragged little doll, not even when I claim she is being mistreated (“don’t leave Tiffany on the floor! She’s old!”). Once in college my mom suggested “retiring” her (at this point I was still shamelessly toting her between home and dorm) and the look I gave her must’ve been pretty awful cos she hasn’t mentioned it since. It may be a doll, I may have some weird adjustment/attachment issues for having her, but she has been around for every strongly emotional event since I was 4 and I’m not letting go of that. I also learned to sew from my nana because of and on her, which is something I enjoy and have good memories of. Besides, what’s the difference between me snuggling up with a stuffed animal versus a pillow or corner of the comforter (which is what happens without her)? Nothing, that’s what. I kind of imagine her being put away when I have kids; not because of some arbitrary grown-up milestone or in the interest of being well-adjusted in the eyes of my progeny, but because I don’t want to share her with them and I anticipate they will expect to have a monopoly on stuffed animals in the house. No way kids. I say you and spikeroll party on.

  • Courtney

    This article speaks to my soul! It makes me feel so much better knowing that 1.) I am not the last 24 year old still sleeping with a stuffed animal and 2.) I am not the only person who owns a puffalump! His name is Buffy…he is my soulmate…my one true keeper of secrets! (I would talk to Buffy all the time too) I love him so much, I am literally terrified to bring him anywhere with me (like when I am traveling) because I am afraid I would somehow forget, yea right, him and then he would be out of my life for good…breaks my heart just to think he would be without me too! He has been in my life for 21 years now and I do NOT plan on letting him go anytime soon. And I’m right there with you, my bed does not look complete/made up without him sitting right in the middle, amongst my 100 other pillows.

  • Jessie Ann

    I have a teddy bear which I picked out as my birthday present for my second birthday. My grandmother used to own a teddy bear shop a long time ago, and for that birthday she let me go in and choose whichever teddy I desired. At the time he was almost as big as I was. A big, white, excellent teddy bear, which I named Jumpy. Nearly 24 years later he still sleeps in my bed. In fact, I can’t imagine what it would be like if I had to put him away in a box. My bed would be so empty! I’m pretty sure he’ll be with me forever.

  • Laura

    chiming in to say yes me too!
    my boyfriend likes to tease me about throwing Doggy (yeah I was crap at naming when I was little) out the window
    once we had a conversation in which I admitted that I’d likely save Doggy rather than him in the case of a fire :P mostly because I thought he’d be able to save himself and Doggy couldn’t

    any way love this article and the comments :)

  • Jenn

    thanks for this article! I am 30 and still sleep with my 30-year old sheep puppet yaya and his ‘replacement’ my dog murphy who I got to travel with when yaya became too old and fragile. I am so attached to them that if they roll off my bed in the night I wake up right away!

    Boyfriends may come and go but these guys are the true loves of my life. If I ever do get married and/or have kids my family will just have to deal (or leave). I never really hide them if people come over..unless I’m worried about them accidentally sitting on them!

    I even have some framed photos of them posing with their friends (other friends’ animals. )

    Growing up my poor family made me many desperate offers, including building a beautiful stained glass coffin for yaya. NEVER!!!!!!!!

    Has anyone else been watching Desperate Housewives 7 and identified with Gabby and her attachment to her doll…..which Carlos makes her go to therapy for?? LOL

  • jenni

    i just read this while laying with my theodore who is my twenty three year old puffalump my moms friend got at a garage sale, I am twenty-one. he use to prop my bottle up and i would hold his ears. I think that there is a part of me that is calmed by him. He is my constant in my life. I laughed when I read the part about him not breathing in the box because I felt the same way putting my theodore in a suitcase or in the washer. I know he is a doll but my imagination from my three year old mind gave him life and memories. He is my friend and will always have a special place on my bed. I also have lissie doll or unni (both rabbit dolls) for when I travel.

  • Luke Eely

    Thankyou so much for this article. I was going to sell all of my old Lego sets on Craigslist, which I had such a connection to, and people responded so quickly. I thought how great it might be, but I then just burst out in tears. They were my childhood, and I still play with them. So I prayed to the Lord to help me make the right decision, and it led me to this page. I read it and knew I would not sell it. Thankyou again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/helen.donovan.31 Helen Donovan

    My brother took his stuffed frog away with him to the Army and still has it?him? somewhere in his home and he’s 40.

  • Bunny lover

    Hophop was given to me by my father on the day I was born – he still sleeps with me every night and had travelled the world with me. I’m a 33 year old wife & mother and I don’t care. I think of him as my totem or charm – he always has made me feel calm and secure and always will – plus he costs less than cigarettes and alcohol! Surely not that bad a vice to have!

  • YogurtWhale

    I still sleep with my seventeen year old Teddy bear I affectionately named Sleepy Beary. (I was 2) I cannot give him up. My cousin was telling me that he needed patches, and I snapped at her. He does have multiple stitches and rips that I just keep patching up as time passes, and he has cataracts from going through the dryer so many times, but he is still mine. I really think that it’s the time I’ve spent with him. He came to school with me on my first day, he was my shoulder to cry on. I even believed that he ate the nightmares so I would sleep soundly. I lost him once for three days and they were the worst days of my young life at the time. I couldn’t sleep. He really is my one special toy that I will keep forever. Hell my mum still has her bear! So I’m glad that there are other people who still have their special toy.

  • Gernald

    I’m 23 years old and in medical school but Ruxmen the bear and Pinky the blanket are never far away. When I was around seven pinky got left at a hotel in Germany and I made my dad drive two hours back to the place to get her. I was very distraught. Now I claim Pinky is used as a pillow but um nope, I like the silk! And Ruxmen is way better to talk to than myself when I’m alone…because talking to a stuffed bear is way more sane than rambling to myself… yeah…