You’re probably wondering why my girlfriends all got me stuffed animals for my birthday, aren’t you? After all, it is kind of a weird gift to give a twelve year old. Unless, of course, that twelve year old is me. Because, you see, it just so happens that I love stuffed animals and dolls. I have been collecting them ever since I was a little girl. In fact, my bedroom is pretty much overflowing with dolls, I have so many of them.
My grandparents were the ones who got my collection started. They travel all over the world, and they’re always looking for interesting mementos to bring back to give as gifts to various friends and family members.
One day, not long after I was born, they were sitting in a restaurant in Greece, trying to decide on an appropriate gift for their infant granddaughter, when one of the waitresses suggested that they buy me a traditional Greek doll. My grandmother absolutely loved the idea. And, today, I have dolls from almost every country in the world.
I also have an especially large number of stuffed animals. Why? Because I love them. And, because I don’t think that a person can ever have too many of them (just like I don’t think that a person can ever have too many books). Which pretty much explains why my girlfriends all gave me stuffed animals for my birthday. They were simply making contributions to my collection.
It’s funny, though, because as much as I still love collecting dolls (for collecting’s sake), not too long ago I had a very different sort of “special” relationship with my stuffed animals and dolls; one that went way beyond merely collecting them.
I was convinced that my dolls were more than just toys. I believed that they were living and breathing creatures with individual personalities who came to life and communicated with one another whenever I left the room.
Anyone who has ever read the books, Raggedy Ann and Andy or The Best Loved Doll knows that this is true. Which is why I felt so horrible about the fact that, while I loved every one of my stuffed animals, I didn’t love them all equally. I couldn’t help it. No matter how hard I tried, I continued to like certain dolls more than others.
At the same time, I was so terrified of hurting the feelings of the ones I didn’t prefer that, every night, before I went to sleep, I’d carefully set every single one of my stuffed animals on top of my bed. I’d lay them around my pillow, and all along one side of the mattress (the side that touched my bedroom wall, so that none of them would fall off). By the time I was finished, dozens of stuffed animals would be sitting on my tiny, single bed.
As you might imagine, the bed was kind of crowded at this point. So, it was always a bit of a challenge trying to squeeze myself in among the stuffed animals without dislodging any of them from their carefully chosen spot. Of course, I always made sure that I apologized beforehand – in case any of them accidentally got squashed, or pushed off the bed in the middle of the night. I didn’t want all of my good intentions to go to waste.
Eventually, however, I got tired of putting dozens of stuffed animals on the bed every night. I decided to put them all on the spare bed on the other side of my room. Instead of sleeping with all of them at once, I decided, I’d simply take a different one to bed with me every night until each had had a turn.
Unfortunately, that didn’t work so well either. I kept forgetting which stuffed animals had already had a turn, and which ones hadn’t. And, before long, I was feeling guilty (again) about preferring some of them over others.
Even today, when I know in my head that my stuffed animals are inanimate objects, I continue to give them human qualities. I guess that I can’t help but want to believe – in my heart – that my dolls and stuffed animals do, in fact, come to life whenever I leave the room (just like I want to believe that my mother really is a girl again, pirouetting in her toe shoes).