Spring’s little green buds are out. Nary a one on March 31, they were adorning every branch of our garden cherry tree on April 1! Happy, and restless, I contrived an errand—paper towels—and headed for CVS. Paper goods and other cleaning products are stashed in a dull aisle at the end of the store. On the way I detoured to the “seasonal” aisle. CVS’s definition of seasonal is always colorful and multifaceted. This week seed packets, bug spray, garden stakes, novelty umbrellas, and the occasional gnome jostled for shelf space with Easter baskets, stuffed toys, egg-coloring kits, and oh the c-c-candy.
The paper towels slipped from my mind. A basket, some fake grass, jelly beans, neon-pastel plastic eggs, a big chocolate rabbit and a little stuffed rabbit…I could assemble it into an Easter gift for Sonny. I did something like that most years when he was a kid. … Push away the thought that Sonny is 23 years old and doesn’t even like jelly beans … That we already had a package of Peeps and a couple of Cadbury eggs in the pantry … A woman with a little girl in tow expelled an impatient breath. She had an eye on a cellophane-wrapped extravaganza on the shelf above my head.
I socially distanced to the appropriate six feet, which took me outside the aisle. That broke the spell.
As I loaded the paper towels into the car, I admitted that the person who wants the pretty basket with candy and a stuffed bunny sitting in plastic grass is me.
Mostly I want the toy. I had a bit of a stuffed animal habit as a kid. A pair of teddy bears, three dogs, a monkey, a red horse, and, yes, an Easter bunny lived on my bunk bed. My favorite, placed at the center of the bunch, was a lion with a huge, scratchy mane. Whenever we went to a toy store, I scanned the dollhouse stuff and then lingered at the plush display until it was time to leave. I longed for an enormous panda bear with a big, soft belly and enveloping limbs, bigger than me, the kind you could barely fit in a car. Obviously this toy, with its rent-payment price tag, was out of the question. I knew that. I could even predict what my mother would say: “Where on earth would you put that thing?”
“On my bed with the others,” I would have replied. I wanted to have enough to cover the bed’s surface completely. During the day I could look at them, and at night I could crowd them around me, making things nice and cozy and tight and safe.
Sonny’s birth was an excuse to troll the toy departments again. We gave him teddy bears and easter bunnies and took him to places like FAO Schwarz (the plush animals displays, OMG). He preferred exotic animals, such as the ones for sale at kids’ museum or aquarium gift shops. Stuffed snakes, frogs, fishes, beetles. Also he went for TV toys: the Abominable Snowman from the Rudolph shows, Elmo from Sesame Street, various Teletubbies, Gary from Sponge Bob. None of them lived on his bed. They got played with for a while and then were passed down to various cousins.
The household member whose soft toy enthusiasms were closest to mine was definitely our golden retriever. He adored a series of stuffed ducks from the pet store. When presented with a duck, he’d shake all over, taking time to sniff the toy. Then, very gently, he’d take the thing into his mouth and carry it around the house. He’d use it as a pillow as well as something to catch and fetch. And then at some point he’d rip a seam and pull out half the stuffing.
For a while I switched to a grown-up version of plush toys, the throw pillow. This was HGTV-approved (pillows add color and texture to a space, as well as comfort). HGTV convinced me that one couldn’t have too many throw pillows, which turned out to be far from true. Having to shift six pillows in order to sit on the couch turned out to be annoying. Having no room for Dave to fold his laundry on the bed proved even worse. He started dumping them on the floor and leaving them there. I put many pillows in a closet and forced myself to stop buying new ones.
I’m still searching for comfort in all the wrong places. Without being forced away from the display, I might very well have bought a toy. That would have been bad. I already have two stuffed animals in my bedroom, both on the headboard. One is a little orange cat, very floppy, with big glass eyes. Sonny gave it to me for Christmas one year so that I could have a cat that was always there for me. (I love our evil orange tabby Capone madly, a passion that’s only intermittently requited.) “My” cat fits nicely on top of a pile of TBR books. The other animal is a purple hippo. I was able to rationalize the purchase neatly: 1) I bought it in a store for grownups, and 2) it’s practically a medical device, since it’s infused with lavender and is microwavable so that you can get to sleep more easily. And two is plenty; two is the last safe number in the one-two-many of my autism. A third toy could trigger the deluge. In two months the bed would be covered. Forget space for laundry: neither Dave nor I would have room to sleep! Probably better to look to the little green buds for comfort, instead.