From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stuffed Animals and Happy Childhoods

Wants, needs, and deprivations



A few days ago, I was in line at a store behind a lady and her granddaughter. The little girl had a stuffed animal, and she was whining and wheedling for the grandmother to buy it.

The pleading reached an emotional crescendo as Grandmother unloaded her purchases at the cash register. At the very end of the transaction, she bought the stuffed animal and handed it to her granddaughter. The little girl's tears vanished, a smile appeared, and (thank goodness!) a sudden quiet fell upon our little corner of the store.

The woman turned to me and explained that she never had a stuffed animal when she was a child. She wouldn't have dared to ask for one. That's why she buys stuffed animals for her granddaughter, she said. She has sixty stuffed animals in her home; some are for her grandchildren, but some are just for herself.

I don't remember a stuffed animal that belonged exclusively to me when I was little. My sister had a teddy bear, and I think there was a stuffed horse in the toy box that my mom had made. It didn't bother me not to have a personal stuffed animal. I had various dolls, and they were enough.

My children had dozens of stuffed animals that they had received as gifts from friends and relatives. I wonder if the popularity of stuffed animals as a gift suggests a repressed yearning amongst adults. Or do adults like to give stuffed animals so they can feel virtuous about giving a toy without batteries? Then again, maybe adults like stuffed animals simply because we have a biological predisposition to respond to big-eyed, soft, baby-sized critters.

It is sad to think of children who don't have many toys. My parents grew up during the Depression, and like many people their age, they didn't have many frivolities in their lives when they were children. My mother had one beloved dolly. My dad remembered blocks of wood to play with instead of toys, and an orange as his only Christmas gift. And there were other, much more serious lacks and losses and stresses and sorrows in their little lives.

When my parents married, they decided they would create a happy home together. As I look back at the childhood they gave me, it's hard for me to feel deprived about much of anything. (Well, I should admit that I felt deprived when I was a child because we didn't have a television. However, I've come to think of that as an advantage.)
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Millions of children are truly deprived. Many lack the most basic necessities of life. Your generosity can make a big difference in their lives. Please consider a donation to a reputable charity that helps children.

4 comments:

Mark said...

I remember a teddy bear. I can't remember ever playing with it or much of anything else, but I can see it as plain as day, and it was worn with use.

Anonymous said...

I had a little stuffed dog and it was flat from so much squeezing. I also got a stuffed lion that mom and dad got when they bought a washing machine. We didn't get many toys except on our birthday and a couple for Christmas but we appreciated every one of them. We had fun anyway and used our imagination and spent a lot of time outside playing! My grandkids have so many toys they hardly have any room left in their bedrooms. Its hard to buy them gifts. I like to buy them things that perk their imagination and desire to learn and experience such as books about wildlife, butterfly nets etc. and they like them. Sammie

winecountrydog said...

you always evoke feelings. but now you've done it: i showed this piece to dog-ma and she got all teary. she has stuffed animals from childhood and adulthood (a few REAL ones 2), but you made her think 'bout the special-ist one: a white seal who belonged to hanni -- her beloved, late friend. after hanni died, her son hans offered the little seal to dog-ma, explaining that, for years, his mom had collected and fixed up stuffed animals to give to children in need of an animal buddy to hug.

Genevieve said...

My cousin Teresa Brown had a stuffed collie dog when she was little. When she lay down in her bed at night, she sucked her thumb and, with her other hand, pulled out little pieces of her collie's hair as she hugged him. He was quite well plucked, as I recall. That just showed how much he was loved, much like the Velveteen Rabbit.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.