Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Joy of Stuffed Animals

As the season of giving approaches, I find myself thinking of the most simple of gifts: a Stuffed Animal. There is something deep in the human soul that needs to hold, to touch, and sleeping all alone at night is just not really do-able, at any age, perhaps especially in early childhood.

For children, the acknowledged wisdom is that stuffed animals are an important part of healthy psychological development. Yes, you can make a real difference in the world, by donating a stuffed animal or two to your local holiday toy drive.

When I was little, I had a stuffed toy named Bully, with a plush body and a plastic bull's head. I also had a favorite blanket, a baby blue quilt-like number with pink tufts emerging from the center of each sewn square of fabric. Holding onto these things gave me comfort; I could talk to Bully, and bury myself in the softness of my blanky at nap-time.

Today, I sleep cuddled against the warm body of my Welshman husband. We curl and uncurl around each other all night long, holding hands, rubbing feet together, caressing hips, and planting kisses on the center of each other's backs. When he gets up in the middle of the night, I sense the sudden solitude, and wake up. Him too, when I sit up to read or tap on the laptop.

They say that healthy adult love includes elements of nurturing often missed in childhood, and still needed at a profound level. I have single friends who wrap themselves around large pillows, or invite their cats and dogs into bed with them. Most of us, as "grown-ups" are somewhat shy about being partial to a humble stuffed animal, except in times of extreme stress and loneliness.

However, I have a theory that if all the world had something to cuddle with, we'd be happier all around and wake up smiling every morning. Holding onto to anything while we slumber takes us back to less complicated times, when just giving love nourished us, with no expectation except a small dab of comfort. The great mystery here is, that by just loving, even an inanimate object, we feel loved in return.

Does love make our loved ones more real to us? Absolutely. And this concept has never been better expressed than in the wonderful childhood story, The Velveteen Rabbit. I dare anyone, especially during the winter holidays, to hear this story and not shed a tear.

My elderly friend Bob understood this intuitively, when I gave him a stuffed rabbit to hold during his hospital stay two years ago. He missed his cat, so the white bunny from the drugstore it was. He resisted holding it, but when he put it on his lap and stroked it, his face broke out in a smile of understanding. Connecting with his love for life by feeling love in the simplest of ways gave him strength, no doubt.

So, don't be shy. Share a story here of the joy you find in a soft, furry toy. Let's create a love-fest of happy moments, of that sense of contentment that only holding and loving can give. To kick it off, here's a priceless pic of the long-suffering Welshman himself, cuddled with his new favorite.


SurToby said...

hey...no fair, publicizing my secret love affair with a member of the ovine race! For those who wish to know, her name is Esmeralda, and no -I will not share...

Anonymous said...

I spent my entire morning wrapping up Chloe's stuffed dogs in blankets and helping her to put them to bed....then waking them up and dancing and playing with them.....then wrapping them up in blankets again and cuddling them before putting them to bed. We did this for about 2 hours. "Shhhh" Chloe would whisper "Doggies go Nigh Nigh....shhhhh". And she would rock them then carry them carefully over to a spot on the floor next to the heating vent where they always like to sleep.

They aren't as cute as Toby....but close!!! Love to you from Camille

Lisa G. said...

Oh I love this! The Velveteen Rabbit single-handedly rendered me incapable of throwing away any stuffed animal. Ever.

Geez Toby, you won't even share your sheep with your lonely, single friends? (Sigh.) I'm scanning the room for something to cuddle with tonight and all I see is a Buddha statue.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is "BAAAAAAAAAA"


bigsurkate said...

Unfortunately, I once was taken to a battered woman's shelter. The first thing they did was take me to a closet FULL of stuffed animals and asked me to choose one for my very own. I chose a dog with long floppy ears. I slept with that stuffed animal for a couple years after leaving that abusive relationship.

I haven't thought of the Velveteen Rabbit in decades! I'll have to pick it up again. Thanks for the reminder!

Linda Rowland Jones said...

Kate, no problem! The Velveteen Rabbit is such a magical story.

And thank you so much for sharing your story, such a powerful endorsement of the healing power of having something to love.

We'll have to meet someday, since were neighbors. I'd like that!

warm hugs from us here on Partington!

odious said...

I have a bed full of soft fluffy plush animals I'm rather fond of. I'm 25 but I never really got tired of having stuffed animals around. My favorite is a huge stuffed husky dog named Tundra who likes to lounge about on top of the bed covers.

Linda Rowland Jones said...

Dear Odius (?) I have to say that after I wrote this post, I bought a stuffed bunny which is a dead ringer for the velveteen rabbit; I named him Bartholomew and he doubles as a puppet, his face is very expressive. So he talks to us at length. I take him with me on the road. Hooray for love in all its forms!