You wouldn’t guess it if you knew me now, but I was fucking nuts for stuft animals when I was a kid. I wasn’t allowed a dog until the 3rd grade, so I made due with fuzzy and squishy creatures purchased from Toys R Us. There were bunnies, bears, dogs, cats, frogs, whales, sea otters, monsters, snakes, monkeys, giraffes, koala bears, probably an armadillo, mice, squirrels, pigs, peacocks and anything else you can turn into a fluffy friend. What there were NOT were dolls. I was never interested in human-themed playthings. Kens and Barbies were only shifty-eyed zookeepers that would breeze in and out of the elaborate productions I would choreograph starring Mr. Chetsworth, the gorilla, and Mrs. Ellington, the penguin.
I had one huge bunny when I was real little, like maybe 3 or 4. It was yellow with big eyes and the typical bucktooth bunny smile. I’d drag it around until it was filthy, then it’d get washed and fluffed and the vicious cycle of dragging would continue. The bunny is even in a picture of me taken WITH a person in a bunny suit while I’m in my Easter dress. I look worried. “Too. Many. Bunnies.” I’m thinking. I was practically a baby, it was confusing.
The only reason I remember the bunny is because it met its demise when I caught a really bad flu and threw up all over it. This was very sad because it was the only stuft animal I had that was bigger than me. I’d come close to experiencing such enchantment only one other time in my life.
When I was 7 years old, my elementary school had a raffle at the obligatory “Bi-Annual-Yes-We-All-Have-Parents” barbeque. Raffle prizes were of the typical fare: school supplies, a couple tee-shirts, trapper keepers, gift certificates, and so on. These things were of little interest to me, but behind the table displaying the various sundries that you could win was the most perfect 4-foot stuft polar bear you could possibly imagine. Beautifully clean and white, with big black beads for eyes, and a little red heart between its paws that read “You are berry special!”. It was huge. I had to have it. I just knew I would win it! Jesus, let me win that! Come on dude, be on my side for once. I promise I’ll do everything right from now on, just let me win that giant bear!
I bought raffle tickets. Not too many as I recall, but I was convinced that any one of them was a winner. I was so confident that that bear would be mine, I could just see it looming over all the other animals, smiling at me. I AM berry special, thank you for noticing! He would be named William. William the Polar Bear.
Raffle time comes. Crappy prizes given out. I wasn’t really paying attention, I was thinking about how awesome it will be driving home in my parents Caravan with that bear sitting next to me. Buckle up, William! What’s that, you’re hungry? We’re almost home, I’ll make you mini pizzas when we get back to YOUR new house. You’re rad, William!
Bear, bear, bear, bear. Numbers calling. Look through tickets. No, not that. No, not that one either. Not you. Or you. Or you. Or…
Any of these.
But, no. That’s my bear. William? What’s going on? How could you go with someone else? How could this happen?
I wandered up to the table and showed them my tickets. Surely this was a mistake, ha ha! You see, you didn’t call the numbers on my tickets when giving out that bear! So how about I just take the bear and we call it a day, hmmm? No. But.
Wait, what’s that? I DID win something? Oh my God, what is it? It’s a stapler? A STAPLER!? Is this a joke? No? Anybody? No joke. What a rip-off.
I only realize now that my life took a dramatic turn that night. I felt the chilly embrace of Disappointment for the first time. And she has been my companion ever since.