Sunday 3 August 2008

They Comforted You...

Back row: Justlikekip, Tweetypie, Sylvester, Jolly.
Middle Row: Owlie, Cedric, Nutter, Jimbo.
Front Row: James the Frog, Teddy, Tom.

I used to have a lot more soft toys than this as a child. But these are the ones I still keep.
These are the ones which have a kind of significance.

The significance kind of varies, but I guess each one represents a certain part of childhood and growing up.

Teddy has no name apart from Teddy. I'm told he's my oldest toy. I have no idea how old he is, he may be older than me by decades. Presumably he sat in my pram with me. I don't really remember playing much with him as a child and he doesn't seem to have any clear personality associated with him either. He belongs to my pre-cognitive years.

Jolly and Tom are the next oldest. Jolly is Italian for Jester, because he comes from Italy. He was given to me by one of my Mum's au pair friends (that's how my Mum ended up here, she came over as an au pair).
They kind of have personalities.

I guess you have to remember, I was an only child up until I was four. I look back now on thoughts I remember having then and they often shed a light on how people generally develop.

It's always been my view that we often forget that our development as human beings isn't just our own growth- it's the assimilation of the views and knowledge of those around us.
Someone asked me the other day 'Yes, but how can you PROVE the big bang. No one REALLY knows'
'That's actually not true' I said 'The Big Bang is remarkably easy to prove'.

And I explained red shift, cosmic background radiation, etc.

Because it is easy to prove. But one human being starting from scratch could never have come to such conclusions. Easy as it is for one man to prove the big bang now in a five minute conversation, he can do so only because of the inherited knowledge and thoughts of humanity.

And thus, I think it is with soft toys. I remember wanting to believe that Jolly and Tom were somehow alive, just as our ancestors wanted to believe the Idols were alive.

And I think at times it was a concept I wrestled with. Because you sensed that adults didn't quite think they were alive. And yet you WANTED to believe.
I remember my Dad coming into the room at the house I was staying at to tell me I had a brother. I replied 'Will he have a real face, or will he have a plastic face like Jolly's?'

I'm not sure quite what that says. That I knew Jolly had a plastic face. But that people with plastic faces were somehow living entities.
I don't know. I was not quite four years old.

James the Frog burst on the scene at about six years of age. James was most certainly a product of a different stage of thought. I still thought he was real- kind of- except he couldn't talk without my help. My existing toys were just inexplicably silent. This curious condition James had of needing me to operate him was somewhat of a mystery, but not one I struggled to find the answer to.

My Mum never liked him much. Because let's be honest, he was noisy and irritating. And being a frog, he had a tendency to just jump at people's faces squeaking as loud as he could. He was a strange character really.

My brother once decided he was so annoying he should go back in the pond with all the other frogs.
Fortunately, he was only filled with plastic beans, not something that might smell.

Nutter, Jimbo and Owlie all come from a similar era. Nutter is called Nutter for the simple reason that he used to nut people. I guess I was getting to that awkward age of excess energy where I frequently had to be shouted at.
Anyway, Nutter used to avenge me by creeping up on people (my parents mainly) and nutting them.
Jimbo was his brother, picked up at some fair or other.
Owlie, not sure where he came from. He still seems in relatively good condition.

Tweetypie and Sylvester come from when I was probably getting on for eleven or so. Probably the last ones I got before I threw them all out, except the chosen survivors shown here.

So what of Cedric and Justlikekip?

Well Cedric was actually my Mums. But I caught chicken pox as an early teen, and when you get it at that point it's quite bad. In fact, I was pretty much delirious. I still have scars from it now. My Mum gave me Cedric at this point to keep me company.

I suppose that kind of explains the odd relationship we had. Because otherwise all my soft toys had long gone into a box at the back of the wardrobe. Cedric was different. He kind of stayed sitting on top of the night storage heater and never left, just sitting, looking wise.

And as my teen years progessed, Cedric developed as a silent source of strength. He never said anything, just looked sympathetic and thoughtful. When I left home, it was Cedric who came with me. And he's been with me ever since. The rest I collected years later when I went back for my childhood things, but Cedric has sat at the end of every bed in every home I've ever had. Along with Justlikekip.

Justlikekip was actually sent to me at uni, along with a whole album of dog pictures. The reason was I really wasn't missing home at all. Except one thing. Kip. I badly missed Kip. I had got used to sleeping with the dog and was finding not sleeping with the dog to be pretty strange. Some would say that I did sleep with a lot of dogs at this point in my life. Maybe. But the stuffed one always sat at the end of the bed.

Interestingly, I found over time, I wasn't the only one with such mementos. The Baker had this manky monkey at uni, one ear missing, and a chewed up plastic banana in his hand. And I'll always remember how genuinely angry The Baker was when I hanged it. I think it had been with him since his early years and in his head, it had a persona, which his adult mind knew wasn't alive, but a part of him, that childhood that lives in all of us, still sees as a friend that needs protecting.

Cedric's role in life has been funny. He's just- there. I've never really paid him much attention, I just like him to sit at the end up the bed. Because he always has done. Various women have expelled him to cupboards or spare rooms on the grounds he looks freaky. I've decided that in future, the next women who decides that she will only get into a bed devoid of Cedric sitting at the end, clearly has no place in that bed.

Justlikekip, on the other hand, can never satisfy the fact that I want a real dog and due to my single life, will probably never be in a position to keep one. But from time to time, I can pat the stuffed one on the head and think about having a real one. And having adopted one with Dog's Trust also goes part way to satisfying that yearning.

So, the picture's took, you read the post, the rest of the stuffed critters return to the back of the cupboard, Justlikekip returns to the sofa, and Cedric to sit at the end of the bed.

They may be made of fabric and plastic, but they have played a role in my life and will be on open display in any place I call home, in the same way I display the Proclamation of the Irish Republic on the door to the living room.

Are they totems, are they comfort blankets?
Maybe a bit of both.

But home wouldn't be home without them.

Inspired by Eve


Anonymous said...

What a lovely post!

I've got my snoopy...he's my oldest friend and I wouldn't be without him. Doesn't say much but I know he listens :)

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with keeping these old friends.

I have one who goes back to before I can remember and is my oldest friend and confidant.

Anonymous said...

Tweety and Sylvester go so well together, well I think they do for reasons of my own LOL.

Anonymous said...

I love Owlie.

I never had toys. I had books. Still have them - still remember every page, every picture, almost every word...

Anonymous said...

Kate- You've just reminded me, I had a snoopy too at one time. I'm not sure the logic behind which toys take your fancy and which don't. I guess there isn't much, really. I'm sure many of those I didn't keep were cuter, shinier and cuddlier than this motley crew. But these are the ones that stay.

Moggs- I guess I can be a hoarder in some ways. If something has any remote sentimental value I'm likely to keep it. I still have some of my old toy cars as well, only four, but they were the ones I took most pride in- The Rolls, The Merc, the Jag and the London Taxi :)

Nunyaa- People can go on about Disney all they want, you can't beat a good Warner Bros cartoon :)

Selena- Left to my oen devices, I think I probably would have been quite bookish from an early age. I always did read a lot. But I had a younger brother who was never a big reader, which kind of kept me playing with toys longer than I probably would have done.

I was quite into the Asterix and Tintin comics, which I've kept.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I loved this post! :-)
I remember Cedric.... yup, I'd be pretty insulted if a new partner tried to throw out my stuff, too.
Ooo... and Tom is such a beautiful golliwog...! Makes me want one :-)

Anonymous said...

I still have my very first Teddy Bear. Very frail now, so he sits on the top of a bookcase :-)

And I have Ted. He is very good with advice and loves traveling in my car ;-)

Anonymous said...

Eve- Cedric is Cedric. God knows what he's meant to be, a monkey, a hippo, a bear, he's kind of like those early Warner brothers characters, totally unindentifiable.
But he really doesn't seem to hit it off with the ladies.

I don't know how old Tom is. Nor, these days, do I really think is name is a very good one. I didn't choose it, God knows who did, but it isn't particularly correct, I don't think. I'm not sure I can really find Golliwogs offensive, and I suspect one day he might be quite valuable.

CherryPie- I think it's something that means more to elder or only children. My best mate keeps his, but he was kind of an only child, because he and his brother wee brought separately till their teens.

My brother doesn't keep his- they're still at my Mum's.

Anonymous said...

Hehe. I like golliwogs. Nothing wrong with them ;-)