“Can we please take him home?” Parker is asking as he hugs a stuffy tightly up against his chest. “We wouldn’t want him to be left alone and he needs to be adopted.”
I chuckle quietly to myself because I am pretty sure those same words have come out of my mouth before. I can hear Blair’s voice now yelling, “NO more stuffed animals!”
Stuffed animals? They are not merely stuffed animals – they’re members of our family. Lambie (#1), a once cream-coloured lamb, with curly fur and sewn light brown eyes, was a Christmas gift I gave to Riley when he was one. Riley, now 11, still tucks Lambie under his chin every night as he falls asleep (Lambie has only one missed night in his whole history – and that’s how Sierra (Riley’s #24), a black Beanie bear, bought out of desperation at a local corner store in cottage country, came to join us).
Lambie’s the one who accompanied Riley as he was wheeled into surgery to get his appendix removed. And, Lambie has also been on every trip we have ventured on, from walking the path of pilgrimage up towards Stonehenge, to climbing the 704 steps up the Eiffel Tower.
I saw Pookie (Parker’s #1), a brown-spotted giraffe with a honey golden mane and two antlers on top, through the window of the gift shop at the hospital where Parker was born; the same hospital where Parker would stay for the next five weeks because he was so small. But, when Parker graduated with a birth weight of 1730 grams (3.85 pounds, heavier than a bag of milk), he and Pookie left the hospital together and they have been together ever since.
Pookie’s tag, which Parker would rub between his two fingers, to comfort himself as he fell asleep, has faded and now fallen off. Pookie has been a trooper: he went with Parker on the first day of daycare; dragged along for the monthly trek to the lab for blood tests, and squeezed intensely as Parker bravely pulled his own front tooth out. Nowadays, Pookie gets to relax a bit more and would rather keep Parker company while he is reading or playing a game.
Lambie and Pookie are best friends, of course. Lambie has a gentle and kind spirit, and Pookie is more of the no-nonsense, practical type who likes to oversee things. Although they are often reluctant to disclose the exact nature of what goes on when we’re not home, we do hear tidbits and stories about piñatas, sliding down the bannister, riding the laundry basket down the stairs and copious amounts of eating and drinking lemonade.
We often hear them hatching devilish plans about how they are going to rid of “the others” (numbered #2 and beyond), perhaps while Riley and Parker are at school. But they needn’t fear; they’ll always remain number one, even though each successive stuff toy has a name and becomes a part of our lives.
Appa (Parker’s #55), a white fluffy air bison, and Neapolitan (Parker’s #63), an ice cream sandwich with giant fabric eyes, will sit and watch Parker do his homework most nights. Salamence (Riley’s #46), a blue dragon with red wings, will play Monopoly with us when we need an extra player.
At bedtime, SpongeBob Squarepants (Riley’s #35), outfitted with a tuxedo and sunglasses, and Lumpy Space Princess (Parker’s #70), who is purple, cloud shaped with arms, and wears a crown, are often the panel judges on Crocodile Club – their version of Dragon’s Den, while Toothless (Parker’s #26), from How to Train Your Dragon, pitches his business venture to harness energy from fart gas. Crocodile SpongeBob isn’t convinced it’s a good investment.
Secretly, it reminds me of the many moments that my sisters and I played with our stuffies growing up – each animal with their unique personality, voice, temperament, and mannerisms. They too, were clutched, carried on trips, cried on, and bore witness to both the happy times and the painful ones.
“Mommy?” I look back at Parker, who then resumes talking to the dark brown corduroy moose, whom he’s calling “Rolo.”
“Of course, honey,” I reply as we all walk together towards the counter to pay, “ we certainly want him to have a good home, don’t we?” (Parker’s #96).
Blair is just going to flip when he finds out.
Elaine Fung is a Social Worker in children’s mental health, where she has learned so many things about life from the families she has worked with. She lives with her husband, two imaginative children, and very mischievous cat. She would like to write children’s stories.
See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Stouffville, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.