Stuffed animals and old dolls……

I was cleaning out one of the rooms in my house, a room that was once my office but had just become a storeroom that I never entered. Things got stacked there and stuck there to be “out of the way,” but it just became a very scary room, especially after we had rats get into the house one year. I know. How disgusting and awful. They found that room way too homey.

It had been homey for me once upon a time, too. I had decided I was an adult and could decorate anyway I wanted to, so the room sort of had this baby blue, teddy bear theme. It was sweet, and I loved it once upon a time. I used it as a place to keep a lot of my old stuffed animals. As I clean out the room, I’m coming across them. I’m trying to clean them up after being in the dust and dirt and, well, rat mess. I’ve vacuumed them and washed many of them, although they don’t wash that easily. Some are close to falling apart and need repairs. In that room, it’s mostly the old ones, the ones from many years ago. I remember who I got it from or the story of where I got it or just having had it forever. Each one seems to have it’s own personality and evokes a unique feeling in me. Each one is its own “person” in my mind.

If I was the child in The Velveteen Rabbit, there is no way I would have ever let them take my favorite toy. No matter how sick I might have been, my hands would have clung to it. I would have sneaked outside to rummage around in the garbage pile before it was burned. I would have found it, or at least looked.

When my brother came to help clean out the garage years ago, I told him to make sure to save my toys. I also made sure he did not get rid of any of the Christmas decorations. In those decorations, there was a creche, an old nativity scene I’d grown up with. It was not a fancy set, but I loved that the baby Jesus was not “stuck” in the manger, but that he could come out and be put back in. I’d spend hours looking at it and playing with it each Christmas. My mom would tell me that I should not get too attached to it. My brother had apparently given it to her, so she always thought it would go back to him. He didn’t even remember it. It somehow ended up in the “throw away” pile when he came to help. That pile filled up the side of the yard where the trash cans were put and half the driveway. I realized that the creche was not among the things that I had kept, and I could not stand it. I even awoke early the next morning because I was so upset and felt lost. I dug through that huge pile of “stuff” trying to find it. I never did. It still pains me every Christmas, every time I think of it.

So, that’s how I know that as a child I’d have torn up the world to find a favorite toy that had been thrown away. My Panda Bear, something my father gave me at the one time in my life when I ever felt he even noticed I existed, was something (someone) I slept with until a roommate’s dog tore him up. He’s still in my hope chest, and it always will be.

I understood the story of that rabbit becoming “real” all too well. It’s what I’ve been trying to do my entire life. I still wonder what “real” is, but I love what the Skin Horse said about it.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

When I read about temperament, work based on Jung’s theories and written up by David Keirsey, it makes some sense. I am what they call an NF, and intuitive feeler. Those types of people constantly seem to be in search of themselves. They often are a bit of a mystery to other types who feel maybe they should be involved in this “search for self,” but it just doesn’t make any sense for most people. When I read about NF children, something very interesting comes up. It’s the idea that for these children, their toys become something “other” in their mind. They have a rich fantasy life, and they begin to feel that these toys, especially stuffed animals and dolls, have their own personality. They weave stories around them. My mom would always get on to me for asking for more dolls and animals but not playing with the ones I had. Yet for me, I was always talking to them, interacting with them. I did not play with them like “normal” toys necessarily. I sot of thought they had their own lives to lead. I remember when we landed on the moon, and i was going to get to stay up and watch it. Mom would not let me bring all my dolls and animals into the living room. I could only choose a few. I felt so guilty leaving the others behind. I pretended that there was a TV in my room and that I turned it on for them. Still, I felt bad for choosing some over others. It was so difficult for me. I felt horrible for picking some and not others. I tried to justify my choices to myself, but there was no way it seemed fair or right to me. That is probably what I remember best about the moon landing.

So, now I have even more. I have ones I’ve bought myself because I just wanted to feel loved, ones I’ve gotten at special moments, ones I just fell in love with. I’m packing up a lot of them. Mom did put some out in the shed, and they are ruined, beyond help. These won’t be put somewhere where they won’t be ok. I’ll put them away while I’m working on this house, getting it sorted. But, there will be a place for them somewhere. I won’t have a room like this one was again, but I’ll make space for them. I have a child in therapy who scares her psychiatrist by claiming her stuffed animals “talk” to her. I think she’s projecting parts of her personality onto them, both the good and the bad parts that she can’t quite “own” yet. She might well be delusional and shows other signs of it at times, but I don’t feel that this is one indicator. I think she’s an intense kid who is often lonely. Sometimes, some of her animals suggest negative things to her, but she can tell them “no.” It gives her a way to deal with her more negative impulses. Her favorite will tell her to do the right thing and encourages her to not hurt herself, to do what she’s supposed to do, and basically “listens” to her. I can’t think that that is a bad thing. I have no problem diagnosing delusional behavior, but I am more open then some about unique beliefs and thoughts. If it works for them and doesn’t hurt someone else, I don’t necessarily worry about the thinking being delusional. Is it functional is probably my first thought.

In cleaning out my house and my life, I have to take into account who I am. I can’t do it the way others would do it necessarily. I can’t just scoop it all up and throw it out. Yes, it’s “stuff,” but it has meaning and memory attached to it. It’s a part of who I am. I will let go of what I can, and I will make room for what I need to keep. I may need to put some of it aside for a time, but I will keep the things that mean the most, that help me remember who I am, that are tied to my sense of self. It makes it a bit harder to accomplish this massive task of cleaning out and fixing up the house. However, I have to find a way to clean it up, fix it up, and yet be true to myself. Some things will go, and that will make me sad, but I will keep the things that tug at my heart. Many are worn and old and barely recognizable, much as “real” things are described by the Skin Horse. I don’t know if the Nursery Fairy will ever come along and make them “real,” but they are “real” for me.

Now, if that Nursery Fairy would just make ME “real,” or at least feel like I am occasionally.


~ by Janice Holladay on February 8, 2012.

2 Responses to “Stuffed animals and old dolls……”

  1. […] Stuffed animals and old dolls…… ( […]

  2. Wow! This is so refreshing to read. It could just as easily have been written about me and it’s so heartening to know I am not the only one. Thank you.

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