So today was the day I had to finally make the traumatic decisions. Decisions so traumatic than when they first faced me when I was the tender age of twelve, I decided to post-pone them for as long as I could. Twenty-three years later I knew the jig was up when my mom said, “Your father and I are cleaning out the house. You need to go through your stuffed animals.”
The thought of it weighed on my mind as I drove to my parents’ house. How could I turn them away? Get rid of them? Say to them, “I don’t want you anymore.” As an only child, these animals were my playmates. When I was scared at night they were a wall to protect me. I stitched them clothes, named them, and loved them. Toy Story is my favorite movie, I can’t watch Jesse sing her song about being donated in Toy Story 2, and at the end of Toy Story 3 I was a blubbering sniffling fool. Now I have to hope that there is an army of Bonnies out there to take care of my animals, since as an only child, I had a lot. Now I had to choose: who would stay and who would go.
The task was daunting: we had eight 30-gallon bags of animals to go through. I was both excited to be reunited with old friends and dismayed at saying goodbye. I prepped my mother to only say positive comments about the state of the “well-loved” animals who were ready to “retire”. Then the reunion began: Sleepy Bear! Lady! Tramp! Garfield! Odie! E.T.! My Pound Puppy! (Still wearing his tag that stated his name is Spot and belongs to Amy.) Slider! Kermey! Spermy! (My white ghost.) I found Bernadette, my dog who barked, walked and begged. She was a family favorite. Shortly after, I found Baby Bernadette. I decided to keep Bernadette and give-up Baby. I knew I was separating a family, but I had to be strong. As I placed Baby Bernadette in the donation bag, my mom shot me a look of despair, “You’re not keeping them together?” Feeling like the low miserable cretin I was, I promptly rescued Baby and reunited her with her mother.
Then a weird thing happened, and this I thank my 12-year-old self for allowing time and distance to occur, I only had vague recollections of many of my animals. It was like looking through an old yearbook and seeing my close friends and then looking at everyone else thinking, “I spent four years with you?” I had a ton of bears; many sported shirts declaring their love for different locales: “I Love San Francisco!”, “I Love Morro Bay!”, and my personal favorite, “I Love My Credit Union!”. Some bears wore dresses with lace trims and had matching purses (which brought on peals of laughter because they were the antithesis of me– how did I come in to possession of such bears?). I had bunnies, koalas, and sea lions galore. By the end we had seven bags full for donation.
I wondered, did I really need to wait 23 years to sort through them? I think I did. The distance, my life experiences moved me away from needing a squadron of animals to protect me from the world’s evils, and right now there are so many children who are in much greater need of their services than I ever did. But it wasn’t easy saying goodbye. My mom waited until I went into the house to “retire” some animals, and the guy at the donation center after seeing me hug Charlie, my big stuffed dog, goodbye, promptly named Charlie their new mascot.
All I can do now is know that Charlie and his friends can continue to fulfill their roles keeping children happy and safe.