The day the animals were ransomed

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I don’t remember most of their names, but I do remember their faces: a possum with eight babies, a giraffe, and a lion that roared when I pulled the string on his back. There were a few dogs and cats, an elephant, and a couple of bunnies, too, as well as others long forgotten.

Together, they made up my family of stuffed animals—a family that played any role I assigned. Sometimes, they were students in a make-believe class taught by me. Other times, they were acrobats in a circus, guests at a tea party, or back-up singers for David Cassidy and I (a girl can dream). They were my counselors and comforters when I was sad, angry or hurt.

For many years of my childhood, I repaid them for their companionship through a nightly ritual of thanks.

Just before bed, I’d carefully position each one to the right and left of me, tucking them in with words of endearment. “Night, love you, sweet dreams.”

There was only one problem with this ritual. I had so many stuffed animals that by the time I got all the way to the end of the animals, I was afraid those who’d been tucked in first were feeling a little left out. After all, it’d probably been a solid three minutes since the tucking in of animals had commenced. As you may have guessed, each animal was often tucked in more than once, if for no other reason than good measure.

The nightly ritual faded away by early pre-teen years, though, and Bunny and Kitty were the only two who followed me into young adulthood. Even they faded away in fairly short order—as 1 Corinthians notes, there comes a time to put away childish things. I suppose that includes stuffed animals.

But I digress.

The ransom

I bring this up because I recently came across another bag of stuffed animals, these belonging to my adult children.

As I emptied the bag onto the daybed, I counted 42 stuffed animals. A few were as small as a pack of gum. A couple were the size of a small laundry hamper. All had been packed away for years.

My first thought was to pick one animal for each kid and toss the rest without their input. That’s right, I said it. Besides, what use would they have for these raggedy-looking stuffed creatures who, in some cases were now 28 years old?!

Lucky for them, my pesky conscience works overtime, and would never dream of allowing me to pull off such a deed.

So I did what any good mom would do. I lined them up, snapped a photo, and texted a ransom note to the kids:

If you ever want to see Spot, CatBat, or any of their friends again, you have until 5 p.m. to let me know. Any unclaimed animal is off to the island of misfit toys… Or the closest thrift shop.

And so began the passing of the torch as the kids claimed their favorite inanimate childhood friends. In the end, they held on to a surprisingly small number, saving less than a handful. Having seen all of the Toy Story movies multiple times, I kinda felt bad for the animals they didn’t claim—though not bad enough to keep them.

After bagging up the discarded animals for their next journey, I set aside the ones who’d made the cut. Warm and fuzzy feelings of appreciation filled my heart knowing that each animal had enhanced my kids’ childhoods.

Even as their time with my kids comes to an end, they’ll no doubt continue to spread joy and enhance new worlds of make-believe wherever they go. Because at the end of the day, that’s what stuffed animals do.

I just hope someone remembers to tuck them in at night.

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