This morning I saw a raccoon in a tree. I was unaware how high they’d actually go. It looked awkward and ambling like at any moment that branch would break and here’d come this fluffy thing out of the sky. I looked up there because the crows were really pissed off. I imagine the raccoon was stealing something…probably an egg. Raccoons are weird.
I loved raccoons as a kid, even as a teenager. Among the stuffed animal collection I carried far too long into my upper teens were a couple of raccoons. I was a stuffed animal kind of kid…they were soft, you could hug them…they had eyes and faces and…they had stories.
Their stories were my mirror, as I matured so did their plot. Smitty, the large stuffed raccoon, eventually felt remorse about his stealing ways and decided to set himself free from the life of crime.
A ceremony ensued…I snipped the thread that held his hand to his face. He was free, he’d been saved. In celebration, three stuffed animal friends took a trip to the West Coast…to Oregon and Washington, and Canada…with a chaperone…me. A seventeen-year-old person is an intriguing phenomenon…on the one hand…traveling onwards, broadly leaving home…on the other hand…stuffed animals with stories and names?
That trip was visionary, although it was difficult to comprehend what I was seeing. I knew mountains, but I’d never seen the ocean, or a rainforest. I’d never been on a large boat or been to Canada. I’d been invited on the excursion by my boyfriend. He, his father, and younger brother always took several big trips in a year…the three of them were seasoned expeditors and I was available. Me, three stuffed animals and a duffel bag. I set the animal crew up every night in our tent along side of me like they might stop a bear from tearing through or make the banana slugs more bearable…and they did. I thought I was going to die on that trip. Terror requires so many relics; stuffed creatures were my allies. If it wasn’t the bear, it was the three day boat ride towards Alaska, or the dirt road up the side of a mountain. Was I normal to worry so much? I knew myself well though…I knew that I’d go anywhere, and do anything if I was invited--whether my fear liked it or not, but it wouldn’t stop the terror. I could deal with the terror, I’d learned how to cope - clutch stuffed animals, hold my breath, disassociate, just keep moving. No wonder I began to carry the medicine bag…even if it was just full of stuffed animals.
I see kids today with blankets and t-shirts they won’t take off for the life of them…favorite shoes or boots that they will not remove…stuffed animals that have been invested with so much attention their heads are falling off. I ponder the meaning of this. In a way, it seems we are all little shamans at some place in our beginning. Or, we have a lot of terror to cope with. Or, maybe innately we are born with the function of adoration…always exploring the power naturally invested in us to breathe life into anything.
Hi there Smitty, Rainbow, Mustard, Puddles, C-Lee, and Owl Lee.
…I’ve never gotten over the habit, this breathing life into things that seem to have none. Toy cars are “those guys,” a large tree, “that fine gentleman reaching towards the moon.” And I still have the stuffed animals, even some new ones… smaller relics who travel around in my car or ones who can be found on shelves in my apartment. I look at these, and imagine those of us who’ve chose to go off on our own, called by the quest of breathing life into form, turning inanimacy into vitality. I think of the purpose of play too. I think of all those little miracles when we invested ourselves in worlds, when toys were still archetypal. How our minds and hearts naturally developed rich love and deep imagery when we were free to create stories - when an elephant could be an elephant without being “Dumbo.”
How are our children going to be able to have their own narratives when the commercial story line blares into the imagination waves? I wonder.
Maybe it’s not such an eccentricity to keep these creatures around
I watch myself think this …when I hand Bird-E to Elie, she always wants to see him after school. Bird-E’s seen better days though. He’s a homemade puffball cardinal with tiny black balls for eyes and pipe-cleaner feet. I made him with a six year old. She opens the palm of her hand, Bird-E fits perfectly in, her eyes widen,
“Bird-E, how are you feeling, how was your trip to Canada?”
She brings him up to her ear and listens, then hands him back to me,
“What did he say?”
“He wants to talk to you about something.”
I place the smashed red puffball up to my ear saying,
“uhuh, uhuh, okay I’ll tell her.”
I put the soft guy down on my dash,
“He feels a little under the weather today due to his long flight with friends last night, but he said that he saw you looking at him from the street on our walk yesterday.”
“I saw him too!”
She paused, then added,
“Allison, Bird-E wants you to glue his eye so he can see better, or he’ll have to get glasses.”
I can see this story’s about to grow a moral
Allison D. for The Poplar Grove Muse