Pet Please #70: Keeping Your Favorite Stuffed Animal Through Adulthood

I haven’t seen the recent movie Ted, but the premise is so simply brilliant that I’m sure I will. A boy wishes that his stuffed teddy bear will come alive and talk to him, and he does…and then the bear grows up with the boy. I’m not sure if teddy bears go through puberty, but I think the movie may answer that question.

I had a few stuffed animals when I was a kid, as well as a Cabbage Patch doll for reasons that I don’t quite understand (something about gender equality, perhaps? I got one when my sister got one). When I went off to college, I decided to take one stuffed animal along with me.

I chose Koala.

Koala–pictured here–is as old as I am. She’s a bit ragged, but she’s held up pretty well. I used to hold her by her arms, twist her around, and then let go to watch her spin above me. Then we’d cuddle.

Why did I take her to college? Again, I don’t know. I probably thought girls would find it cute. But I think a small part of me wanted that comfort object, even if it stayed stashed in a drawer most of the time.

Now Koala spends most of the time in my closet. I know, I know, not cool…but keeping a stuffed animal next to my bed as a 31-year-old feels a little weird. Plus, the cats would get jealous.

Koala came to mind recently when I wrote about a stuffed animal owned by the main character in my novel, Wrinkle. So I pulled her out of the closet, took a few photos for the blog, and let her sit next to me while I wrote this entry. I have to say–there’s something magical about your favorite stuffed animal. It just feels right.

I would guess that I’m not alone in keeping a stuffed animal or two from childhood. Perhaps it’s human nature to cling to those comfort objects that we gravitated towards as kids.

Did you have a favorite stuffed animal when you were a kid? Have you kept it through adulthood?

26 thoughts on “Pet Please #70: Keeping Your Favorite Stuffed Animal Through Adulthood”

  1. I have an equally ragged stuffed penguin (aptly named “Penguin”) that I still have in my basement. When I was young, I would sleep with Penguin’s beak tucked over my shoulder. I actually lost Penguin for about 10 years–from about the time I was 12 until somewhere in my early 20s. I always thought my parents took him away to stop me from caring about a stuffed animial (even though I no longer held him as I slept–he just sat at the end of the bed), but they say they did no such thing. The jury is still out.

    Penguin actually came up in a recent conversation Laura and I had. Since we’ll have a baby in a very short 12 weeks, we talked about passing Penguin down to him. I’m very much looking forward to that!

    • Trev,

      You don’t know what happened to Penguin during those middle years? I thought you knew. Koala had a beer with him a few months ago, and although I got the feeling that it was tough for Penguin to talk about, he shared everything.

      When you were 12, Penguin was about 25 in penguin years. It was tough for him to leave you, but there were some things he wanted to accomplish in the world before settling down for good.

      Namely, Penguin wanted to fulfill his father’s wishes, given to him on his deathbed. “Son,” he managed, barely able to lift his beak, “take back the Antarctic Mafia from the Puffin Clan. Do this for me.”

      Knowing that he had to gain the trust of the Puffins, Penguin presented himself as a lowly outsider to the community (opposed to the wealthy mafioso that he was). He started out as a drug mule between Chile and Antarctica, but he soon rose through the ranks of the Puffin Clan thanks to his quick wit, charm, and knife-throwing skills.

      However, he met a girl. Not just any girl: THE girl. He knew it the moment he set his eyes on her. Unfortunately, she was the daughter of one of the top members of the Puffin Clan.

      As you know, penguins mate for life, so when Penguin started seeing the girl (he won’t say her name), he knew his life would never be the same. It was a whirlwind romance of ice luges, underwater restaurants, and playing pranks on the local walruses. They secretly wed in the spring of ’02.

      Penguin knew the honeymoon was over as soon as they got back from their honeymoon. It was all or nothing–either he overtake the Antarctic Mafia from the Puffin Clan to fulfill his father’s destiny and protect his new wife, or spend every day looking over his tiny penguin shoulder for a puffin assassin to take him down.

      Early that summer, Penguin saw his chance. All of the leaders of the Puffin Clan had gathered under an impressive ice overhang for an evening of high-stakes poker and tickles. Penguin called in his crew and triggered an avalanche that buried all of his enemies.

      Then he checked his voicemail.

      There was a message from his lovely wife, telling him that she had been invited to the infamous poker game and that she wanted him to join her. She had big news that she wanted to share with her father present–she said she didn’t know yet if it was a boy or a girl, but she would be happy either way.

      Penguin tore through the avalanche, trying to unearth his bride before she suffocated. But it was too late. She was gone, and he was left alone on the Mafia throne.

      After that, Penguin couldn’t bear to stay in Antarctica. He hitchhiked back up north, spending some time in a monastery in Argentina before swimming across the Caribbean. He knew that you had grown up and wouldn’t look at him the same way anymore, especially after all that he had gone through, but by that point his only wish was to sit in solitude in a quiet basement, listening to the sounds of you and Laura and your friends, hoping for the day that he might have a second chance when you two have a child.

      Fortunately for him, that day will soon come.

      • Wow! What a story! I had 2 immediate responses and wasn’t sure which one to use.

        Option 1: “I…I…I didn’t know. (Hugs Penguin as salty tears stream down both our faces.)”

        Option 2: “Being a drug mule is tough. No wonder Penguin gets antsy whenever someone joking mentions shoving a dime bag of coke up their ass at a border crossing.”

        • Ha ha…how often does that happen at border crossings?! And why are the two of you crossing the border so much?!

  2. I had two stuffed animals who were (actually, ARE) dear to me.

    My first teddy bear EVER was from an aunt. I named him “Teddy Schmeddy” (which still makes me laugh). I took him with me everywhere, to the point that his left arm is barely attached. But I still have him, I just have to treat him very, very carefully.

    The second bear was handmade by my mom (pre-Build a Bear era). She made bears for me and 2 of my 5 older siblings. I named mine “Honey Bear” (I’m not sure why) and cuddled with it every night of my childhood. Eventually, Honey Bear needed a facelift, so my mom re-made the body part (she still had the fabric) and fixe her up again for me. But it happened again and Honey Bear is out of commission. Again, I still have her, but I have to be very careful.

    When I was a sophomore in college (this is embarassing), I made my mom take me to Build A Bear and had HER make me a new bear since she didn’t want to sew one for me again from scratch. That bear (named “Louie” by my niece) sits proudly in my bedroom, wearing its little Cardinals shirt. 🙂

    • I’m impressed that Honey Bear got a facelift, Elaine! I imagine that plastic surgery is fairly common with stuffed animals, but a full life? Impressive. While she was under the knife, did she have any other work done? Tighten things here, stretch things there?

  3. I kept two of my most treasured stuffed animals and passed them on to Charlotte. The first one was a stuffed ALF that I got one Christmas when I was 6 years old. I got a typewriter that year too and immediately wrote a story about ALF. 🙂 Charlotte never played with him, and one day I got him down from the shelf and realized that she was terrified of him! She’d never seen the TV show obviously, so to her he was just some weird furry thing with a big nose. A few minutes on YouTube looking up old episodes fixed that fear. She still doesn’t play with him much, but at least he’s stopped giving her nightmares!

    The second one is a teddy bear with his arm in a sling and a banadage on his face. He came with assorted medical accessories. He was simply named “Mr. Bear” and for some reason I kept him around for all of these years. Maybe I felt like getting rid of stuffed animals was bad enough, but getting rid of an injured one was even worse? I mean, his arm was in a sling–how on earth would he fend for himself out in the wild?

    I remember that I was 12 when the first Toy Story movie came out, and right before that I was contemplating getting rid of a lot of my stuffed animals. That movie probably delayed that process a lot! How could you watch that movie as a kid and still bag up all of your toys later? I’m *still* not entirely certain her toys don’t come to life when we’re not around. 🙂

    I look at the toys she has now and I wonder which ones she’ll still have when she’s all grown up.

    • Tangential side note: Here’s my mortifying side story about the first Toy Story movie.

      I was 15 and had the same drastically immature group of friends as most 15-year-old boys (with the exception of Jamey and a few others) when Toy Story came out, and I was sitting at a friend’s house when a commerical for the movie came on TV. It was shortly before Christmas, and my friend’s mom walked through the room during the commercial when a bunch of us were sitting around. The conversation topic was Christmas, and well-intentioned lady chimed in with, “Don’t you guys want some Toy Story dolls for Christmas? I bet Brandon would like a Buzz, and I know Trevor would like a Woody.” She quickly realized the insinuation as the group of boys started laughing and some people spent the next week making lewd comments that I dare not repeat on such a classy blog as the JSB about my…ahem…relationship with said mother.

    • Katie–I can imagine that ALF is terrifying for kids who don’t know who he is. Heck, I know who he is, and I’m still a little freaked out by that nose.

      I’m glad you hung on to Mr. Bear–he wouldn’t have lasted a minute on the streets of East St. Louis.

  4. Ok. So, I have a confession…. I am a wife, a mother and a working professional and I have a panda bear. His name is Pandy. I had a seizure disorder when I was a kid, and Pandy was given to me during a hospital stay when I was 2 after a grand-mal. He is special because he is a gift from my dad. From that first night in the hospital, through my childhood and even college, Pandy was my BFF. He listened patiently to my secrets and knew all of my corny jokes, he caught my tears when I cried and comforted me when I was scared. He slept snuggled securely under my arm every night up until my wedding day and still holds court in my closet with other remembrances from childhood. When we had our daughter 7 years ago, I decided to pass down my most cherished friend, but she didn’t see as much attraction as I did to a 30 year old smash faced bear. I rescued him from her room one day and placed him back in my closet after finding him shoved under the bed…. not a place for a senior gentleman.

    Our daughter, has formed her own attachment to a Curious George doll that she received, ironically enough, at the age of 2. George used to go everywhere with her and slept with her every night. We are now on our 2nd George, however, as we lost #1 at a hotel in Texas earlier this year. Major tears (from both of us, especially closer to bed time) prompted her dad to find a replacement. New George is well guarded now, and sleeps with her exclusively at home. A cheaper, smaller monkey- Generic George is the travel pal. She also has a George fleece blanket that I made for her around the time she received #1 which she sleeps with every night wherever she goes. Lord help us if that ever goes missing.

    • Melanie–Thank you for sharing this dear, dear story about Pandy and George. They both sound like remarkable creatures, and I’m glad you took Pandy back from your daughter. As you say, under the bed is no place for a senior gentleman.

  5. Koala is so kawaii! Did you ever press your nose up against Koala’s nose? I don’t know if you remember this cartoon called “Noozles” but it was all about the magic of pressing noses with your ‘Noozle’ or Koala.

    Sadly, I didn’t have a stuffed animal that I held onto growing up. But, I had several ‘little pillows’ one of which got lost in a hotel room on a family trip. It was very traumatic. Now I’ve had the same pillow from Taiwan since I was 18. I wash it every now and then, but not unless it’s musty. TMI?

    • Jen–Koala isn’t really into noozles. She has accidentally hit me with her hard plastic nose in the past during twirlies, but she always apologizes profusely and buries her head in my arm.

      Pillows are a perfectly good comfort object! I totally know what you’re talking about with that musty pillow smell. I like my pillow to smell like me. For some reason that’s better than the smell of a clean pillow.

  6. Totoro. That was my go to. My parents threw him away before we moved. Now I have a replace, but it’s not the same.

    I still miss it from time to time.

  7. I had a blanket my Me-maw made me as my coming home blanket. I had kept it, traveled with it to 17 countries, sewed up rips and loved it through every frayed thread….until my bag was lost in Malaysia. I’m was HEARTBROKEN and actually cried when I realized I’d never get my Me-maw blanket back.

    I also had a Humpty Dumpty that my mom and dad gave me as my first stuffed animal/toy. All four of us got them…mine was red and the boys got blue ones. Mine spent so much time with me, it was constantly being washed. Finally, one day when I was 13, Humpty disintegrated in the washing machine. R.I.P. Humpty.

    So, after Malaysia, I had an empty spot. So, Mom bought me an Ugly Doll (his name is Gato) and he still sleeps with me. He cuddles up right under my arm every night and becomes a very handy travel pillow on long car or plane rides.

  8. I have the exact same koala that I have kept since childhood. It’s a reminder of all my joys and happy times of being a kid. I’m 41 and passed it on to my son when he was a toddler. My son is 12 now, but still cherishes our worn out and well loved koala, “Koowie”.

    • Abbie–That can’t possibly be. There is only one Koala in the world, and she is mine.

      Kidding. 🙂 (Although I’d like to think that way.) That’s very sweet of you to pass it on to your son. Hopefully Koowie will last many generations in your family.


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