My grandson has bestowed upon me a zoo of stuffed animals to liven up my very limited work area. Stemming from Chris’ earlier childhood, I have Webkinz animals, a menagerie of stuffed toys that, by their purchase, allowed me to play games with him on the computer.
Webkinz is an artful merchandising gimmick, wherein after an initial purchase of a Webkinz animal from Ganz, the serial number attached to the toy allows a child to play in the computer land of Webkinz with his pet. But after a year, the number is ineffective, and the child must buy another pet if he wants to continue.
Chris was addicted for a while, but his interest faded as he grew older and was able to play much more sophisticated computer games. Interest in his grandmother’s pastimes also waned.
So, there’s Murphy, the original cat, small and cuddly. Murph can sit on my printer and not even be in the way – when he’s all alone. But there is also Blacky, a small black poodle. He arrived because of Webkinz’s insistence that new additions be made annually. In all fairness, Blacky never won his way into my heart the way Murph did. But life goes on and he, too, collects dust and holds down papers, magazines, unanswered letters and bills. My last purchase to maintain Webkinz privileges was Denver, a brown chipmunk. He was a Johnny-come-lately, and is far more charming than my attention to him would indicate.
Now that Chris is older, I have the relics of his youth. Last week, he decided to surprise me with some additions – on loan from his upstairs collection. So now I have a much larger version of puppydom. It has taken over the printer and relegated Blacky to a less conspicuous corner, where I keep tax information, unpaid bills and correspondence in need of replies. And finally there is a koala set, mother and child, occupying a substantial spot where files should be. They offer a unique charm to what has already become a zoo.
OK, so I’m in my second childhood. But there is something so comforting about the menagerie that greets me each day. Chris’ animals remind me that childhood is a precious time, not to be hurried. They remind me that each of us has an inner child who longs for a little attention and gentle care. They remind me that I have grandchildren who are growing up in the computer age, but still have need of soft, cuddly toys.
The zoo is a continuing reminder of the continuity of life, from a toddler, holding his bear, sucking his thumb, saying, “I don’t wanna go to bed!” to the adolescent who faces both success and trials as he and his peers test adulthood, and occasionally regress – in need of childhood comforts.
These little creatures further remind me that not all children have a childhood filled with warmth, stuffed animals and a loving family. I wonder how I can share these luxuries with them. I increase my donation to the food pantry, give to Christmas funds and pray for a better life for them. I try to understand how our city and state might help, and vote accordingly. And still I feel inadequate, here in comfort and a surplus of luxury, while others are so needy. So when any one of my grandchildren comes to me seeking comfort, that I can and must do.
And I’m again reminded that the world is a big and complex place, but my obligation is to make my corner of that world as safe for childhood as I can.