For Annie the brave
Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). Fifteen years ago I was assaulted by an unknown ailment. I had trouble keeping food in me. I couldn’t sleep. I was depressed, confused and losing a frightening amount of weight. We had no idea why.
The hardest part was the insomnia. One evening in a sleep-deprived haze, I absentmindedly scooped up a stray stuffed animal to join me as I headed off to bed. To my astonishment, I slept that night.
Days turned into weeks, then months, and I continued to be comforted by the presence of this homely stuffed duck named Goober. Goober belonged to my adolescent daughter, Meredith, but she had no particular attachment to him. She did, however, place a stipulation on my continued use of her stuffed animal: I was not allowed to change his (stupid) name. She was adamant on this point.
Years passed. I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which accounted for the symptoms. It was a grueling road back to health, during which time I continued to sleep with Goober. After so many years, I had no interest in weaning myself from such a harmless addiction. And yes, my husband is very understanding.
When Meredith headed off to college, she gave me official adoption papers for Goober, but again, they contained the stipulation that I not change his name. Sigh. Keeping his (stupid) name was a small price to pay for comfort and sleep.
Over the years my family grew accustomed to the fact that Goober and I were a package deal. I liken it to a child’s ratty teddy bear or security blanket. If such a tactile object soothes a child, why should it not soothe an adult?
After 15 years together, Goober looks very loved. His hair is mostly gone and his body is lumpy and matted, rather like some people I know. But he’s mine. That’s all I care about.
Recently my husband and I spent a night in Philadelphia on business. After I returned home and unpacked my belongings, a horrible reality began to emerge: Goober was missing.
I had left him in Philadelphia.
I contacted the hotel, which prides itself on superior customer service. How hard could it be to find a homely stuffed yellow duck? It’s not as if there are a lot of them waddling around their hotel. A friend outside Philly offered to retrieve Goober as soon as the hotel located him.
But the hotel came up empty. Nada. Zippo.
Goober was gone forever.
Stunned by this reality, I reluctantly began to search for a new stuffed animal. Do you have any idea how many options there are? There are jaguars and hippos and chipmunks and cows. There are options within the options. Small, medium or jumbo? Jointed or squishy? Fabric or fur? Cute face, intelligent face, innocent face? Black? Brown? White?
I put more care into selecting a new stuffed animal than I had deciding which college to attend. After finally making a decision, I spent a tense week tracking every movement of the UPS truck from California to Connecticut. In the meantime, I contacted my Facebook friends for ideas on a name for my new companion.
It was quite the discussion. Suggestions included Gomer, Mortimer, Aloysius, Louis de Montfort and Throckmorton Scribblemonger.
My only conclusion was that I have strange friends.
There is a happy ending to this story. I am now in possession of the most adorable squishy brown teddy bear you have ever seen, and I have it on good authority that he is quite content in his new home. This time, I enjoyed the privilege of giving him a proper name – a name that conveys strength and sensitivity and a British flair.
His name is Alistair.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.