Thursday, November 17, 2011

teddy bears and puppy dogs

I must admit that I have what could actually be an embarrassing number of dolls and stuffed animals. There are my American Girl dolls (Kirsten and another doll that in a fit of misguided mothering I named "Krishta); there's my "no seriously she's old enough to be a legitimate childhood keepsake" Fisher-Price doll, Cindy, who has managed to survive over 26 years of my often enthusiastic affection with only a flat spot on her nose to show her age; in addition, there's Fluffy the stuffed dog, an ancient pound puppy, and a miscellaneous assortment of other stuffed animals both small and large. Mercifully there is no 100+ collection of beanie babies packed in tissue paper. But intrinsic to the act of packing is sorting. Things go in piles, and eventually you have a pile of things that aren't worth moving. The NYC teddy bear Allen bought on a visit and later tossed into my lap after meeting me at school (the meeting where I thought "he's really glad to see - like, really glad to see me. Does this mean he likes me?!?) obviously goes with me. But what about the cute teddy bears I got on some not terribly well remembered camping trip? It was probably in the Smokies, but which trip? What about the stuffed puppy (Magi) that Julie bought me the Christmas we realized that none of us kids had bought presents for the other and, after assembling some loose change, paired up and went roaming through Walmart? So I see Magi and remember all the times us kids banded together to solve some problem regarding presents or chores. Those were good times when we pulled in harness to deal with a home life that could be chaotic and stressful. Now the band is broken though - broken so completely that I occasionally wonder whether it ever existed. Was I a good big sister? For all the hours I read books when they were little, did I charge them in surliness and unconcern later? I don't know. There's no one I can trust who can tell me either. So Magi opens quite a mixed bag of emotions for me. And don't get me started on the funny little half-circle pillow Joey gave me one Christmas. It's made from pink quilted material (left over from a place mat?) that I think he got mom to sew in half. Then he came up to me with a needle and thread and some odd bits of trimming and showed me exactly where to sew to make a mouth and nose and two eyes. It's the funniest thing you ever saw, and he couldn't have been more than 5 I don't think. When I'd finished he took it away and wrapped it up and gave it to me for Christmas. Tell me you can toss something like that no matter how silly it looks! But once again, I don't know Joey any more. He's a stunning looking young man (he and my other brother) with a lovely girlfriend and plans for Navy career. Some things once broken become as if they never were. So there are times when I want to put everything in a pile and just get rid of it and forget the bad memories, and yet I can't. Once upon a time I was Natalie M. - big sister, one of five, firstborn daughter. Now, sometimes it feels like those lines from Jane Austen's Persuasion, "Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted." It does not seem that there will be any friendship without reconciliation, and as that presently seems impossibly remote I will continue to pack and remember and laugh that a 28 year old should have a stuffed bear half her own size. (And this I will unapologetically keep since he reminds me of my old dog who was much the same color and size.)

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