Since writing SAM and JUMP, I have learned that many of my adult friends still have their original stuffed lovies. Here you will find a collection of stories about the furless, hairless, eyeless, darling and beloved stuffed animals that many of us olds still treasure and protect with our lives. What is it the magic that makes this so?
This from my friend, Emilie Coulter, with a little food for thought:
"This is Paddy. He's been with me for more than 40 years. I've never, ever lost him, but your request is making me realize why I'm having a hard time with my 10-year-old daughter's suggestion that we operate on him to repair his floppy head and squashed belly. What if he's not the same ol' Paddy when he emerges from surgery? And do I really want him to be fat and sturdy and straight-eyed again? His wonky eyes and caved-in body and weak neck and - most of all - his well-kissed threadbare nose were all earned honestly."
From my pal Jennifer Longo:
My newest picture book, SAM and JUMP, launched this week! I am so happy with it, and feeling very grateful for the love that it was shown during the entire creative process by my wonderful team at Candlewick Press. They really know how to make children's books, you know? Anyway, I have found that my story of a lost beloved stuffed animal has touched a chord with more than a few adults, and I want to share some of the stories I have heard.
I am all a-wonder at this phenomenon shared by so many adults (including me), of having loved a particular stuffed animal so much as a child that they continue to cherish, worry about, and protect them with their lives, well into adulthood, and probably until their last days! I've received several sweet stories of critters that adult friends have kept all these long years, or of their children's critters that have cast powerful love spells on the adults who love and worry about both the kid and the critter. (If I was a psychology researcher, I think I'd have a pretty interesting research topic here...!)
How do these bits of fur and fluff exert such pull on our heartstrings?
I want to share all of these wonderful stories with you, but I better do it one at a time. To kick this off, here's the story of a lovely bunny named Mai Mai, pictured above, who spent a lonely rainy night under the tire of a car, from my friend the brilliant YA novelist Jennifer Longo:
So, this is Mai Mai... Who my family was delighted to notice looks a lot like jump! We brought our daughter home from foster care when she was one year old. We had given her an elephant stuffy while visiting her at her temp home before ours, and we bought three of them, hoping she would attach to that guy and we would have back-ups in case the elephant got lost. But a few months after being with us, while trying to strap her screaming and arching her back into her car seat, my husband grabbed the closest thing he could find, which was this bunny, and he was speaking for the bunny in a funny voice to distract her. From that moment on our Lia was never without the bunny who she began calling Mai Mai, a name we think was conflated with her starting to learn to say 'mama'. She teethed on him and slept with him, took him everywhere always. We moved to a new city a year later and on a rainy Night we went out to dinner, came home and realized that Mai Mai was missing. We called the restaurant, a gas station, looked for hours and all of us were crying, worried about if he was OK or scared and we just felt sick! My husband went out into the dark stormy night to search the car for the fifth time, and my daughter and I sat in the living room and cried, knowing Mai Mai was lost forever. Then suddenly, there was my husband pressing Mai Mai against the dark rain battered window! We had dropped him as we got her out of her car seat and he had fallen behind the car tire, rain soaked and muddy on the driveway. We were so giddy we cried and laughed and nearly passed out with relief! And from then on the rule was, Mai Mai NEVER leaves the house! We found a back up bunny in a different color who is called Bluey who travels...we've never lost him! When our daughter was five we brought a puppy home and I caught him with Mai Mai in his mouth, shaking him and about to rip him apart! Miraculously, I caught him just in time so there was only one small hole on Mai Mai's booty :) Our daughter was emotionally torn, as she loved the new puppy so much but she also obviously loved Mai Mai... She couldn't be mad, it wasn't the puppie's fault. We learned to keep all stuffies out of reach. I sewed a heart-shaped patch on the hole on Mai Mai's back side and it reminds us we almost lost our dear bunny twice.