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10:59 - Wednesday, Mar. 08, 2006
stuffed animals
I have never been quite right in the head when it comes to animals. Stuffed or real, in print in books or as lyrics to songs or just in my imagination - the idea of them; maybe it's the uncertainty about their souls, gets to me somewhere completely outside of my brain, right in the heart.
I'm in Chicago right now, trying to sort out my childhood toys, to put them into a 'keep' pile and a 'giveaway' pile. I had no trouble with Lincoln Logs and the Spirograph and various odds and ends (notables include a set of windchimes with chimes shaped like frogs; a box containing a mini-harmonica, a nickel, and a spool of thread; a velvet stamp set with my name written in Chinese; and a scented candle shaped like a giraffe). But I can't part with most of my stuffed animals. I collected them when I was little. Not even little. Up through high school. I think I took one bear to college with me, a soft brown one in a reclining position.
And I can't part with them because I think, even now, that it would hurt the discarded ones' feelings. I can't stand the thought of anything even remotely resembling a living creature stuffed in a plastic bag and sealed in.
It used to make me shudder, the same shudder I shudder now when someone scrapes metal on metal or metal on ceramic, when a stuffed animal was dropped or thrown and its hard glass or plastic eyes smacked into something. That sound. I always thought about the animal's eyes being held open, forever, and it not being able to close its eyes when it saw the floor or the wall coming, and the feeling of something hitting your eyeball. Today I tried to throw one animal, a white rabbit with a stuffed carrot on a gold string around its neck, into the give-away pile and it missed and hit the hardwood floor. Its eyes clacked. I shuddered; I even had to hug the rabbit, reflexively. I didn't know I was going to do it, but then I did, and it felt like I couldn't have not done it, even if I were someone else.
Once, sometime in elementary school, I was throwing a tantrum and I picked up a rough-furred brown bear wearing a green felt jacket up off the floor and threw it. It is hard to type 'it'. He landed with his forehead pressing into the lightbulb of the light fixture in the corner of my room, but I didn't notice until at least an hour later when I smelled something burning. When I picked him up from the light fixture, I felt something terrifying and completely indescribable because it had no basis in reality or any context, even children's books. It was like I had run my best friend over with a car or shot my mom in the forehead with an arrow. It felt every heartpound of like that and I still don't know why.
My dad used to pick them up by their feet or around the neck. My best friend used to play a game where he would throw them into the ceiling fan and see where they landed.
My mom, every weekend when she washed my bedsheets, when she made up my bed again, she would take my big floppy lanky stuffed Grover from my shelf and arrange him like he was in the middle of doing something. Once he was playing the guitar. Once he was meditating. Once he was reading a book. Once he was even reading a book to a circle of smaller bunnies, pandas, and dogs.


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