I just finished reading an interview of John Cleese in the latest Times issue. In the top right hand corner, along with the small picture of a stuffed bunny, the text said that Cleese and his wife collect stuffed toys. Why? “Because they make me happy,” he said. And I wholeheartedly agree.
I guess I started in the same place as most people: as a kid, I had a few stuffed toys, looking at old pictures and from how old my Mum says some of them are, I’m guessing between ten and fifteen. Strangely enough though, the ones I couldn’t do without until I turned 10 or 11, what the French affectionately call the “doudou”, weren’t stuffed at all. They were Sylvanian Families bunnies. And Smurfs. I had Smurfs like that too. Oh, and I had “Puppi” the rattle doll. There’s been a few versions of that too, apparently “Puppi” liked to change clothes….
Story has it that I kept losing these, which according to most child psychologists means I was trying to shed childhood and grow up. Surely didn’t feel like that at all at the time. One disappeared in a fabric roll in a mahoosive fabric shop. My mother and I looked inside every roll, but nope, t’was gone. Another one just fell off my school bag while I was playing, and I’m pretty sure someone took it and chucked it. Children can be so cruel.
I still have the two little bunnies at home, and they look terribly scruffy from where the soft “fur” has rubbed off from being stroked. They’re also missing eyes. The rest of my Sylvanian Families are happily living at my Dad’s in my old doll house, home made by my grandparents one Christmas. It’s beautiful and so much better than any Barbie House or other you can buy in stores. I’ve checked.
Anyway, my new-found obsession with the fluffy started when I was twelve. After seeing it in the German store Karstadt (they had giant ones), my Grandmother decided to buy me a scruffy fluffy Groundhog, or Murmeltier. As soon as I unwrapped it, life as I knew it changed. I took it everywhere I slept (sleepovers included) and even played with it sometimes to make people laugh. After that, whenever I saw a cute looking toy, I’d buy it, or ask for it as a present. Keyrings, magnets (Nicci I love you)…
No animal is left out, though I have a preference for bunnies, penguins (or Penwins/Penglins like Cumberbatch said), Me To You Tatty Teddies and Blue Nose Friends as well as Disney toys (I have several Stitches and half the Nemo Reef). I have a Panda from Chinese New Year (it wears a little Chinese shirt), a Sea Turtle from WWF and Basque and Irish sheep.
But no animal could replace Murmel, except maybe… Murmel? Yes, I know, but when one pair of Jeans really fits, you buy it again right? So yeah, I bought a second Murmel on Ebay (only place you can find them nowadays) and it stays home as a backup version. Maybe I should buy them all and open a Zoo.
For my nineteenth, a former flatmate bought me a Heffalump because she’d spotted pictures from the movie (which I’ve never seen) on my laptop. That Heffalump is now to my right side what Murmel is to my left. They go everywhere (makes packing just that much more interesting) and they’ve become unique: Heffalumps were reissued a little after my birthday with a trunk that angled downwards rather than up (I’ll let pictures speak for themselves as to why), and newer Murmels have softer fur.
Yes, maybe I have too many (I sleep dead centre so they’re all around me), and maybe I should’ve grown out of them by now. But who says I should? Who cares? Like John Cleese put it so well, they make me happy. Cuddling one when you feel down is nice. They’re reassuring and they keep the bed warm (which is great in winter). They’re great conversation starters with children and they have been known to diffuse a tense atmosphere (Have you ever been able to remain angry or sad when a teddy bear peaked out from under the covers and started climbing up your arm? Nope, me neither).
Plus, life isn’t about being a boring grown-up. It’s about embracing responsibility while keeping your childish enthusiasm for life.