“Not again!” The young woman across from me in the airport waiting area sighed as the airline representative called her name. “They’ve searched me twice already!”
Soon the contents of her carry-on bag were spread out on a table. The so-called privacy screen didn’t keep any of us from noticing that she was traveling with two bags of potato chips and half-a-dozen stuffed animals.
When we boarded the plane at last, she sat down next to me. She looked to be about 15, a streak of purple in her blonde hair. I smiled at her. “This extra security’s a hassle, isn’t it?”
“I was so embarrassed!” she moaned.
“Don’t worry about it,” I replied. “A lot of people travel with stuffed animals.” I leaned forward, unzipped my carry-on bag, and pulled out a white seal. “See? This is Mama Seal. My boys said she’d be lonely if I went to Tucson without her.”
The young woman smiled and began to relax. Score another one for our stuffed ambassadors.
It’s hard to imagine, but I used to live in a home with only a handful of stuffed animals.
Today we have close to 40 “guys,” in all shapes and sizes. We specialize in marine mammals–seals, whales, dolphins, and walruses. Most came from the local thrift store, which my sons have dubbed “The Guy Store.”
The main guys–Harpy, Dolphy, Seal, and Chickadee the Walrus–go everywhere with us. They’ve hiked to the ice caves, seen the Seattle Mariners play, and even joined the line for Communion at our parish. Small children laugh and point at them. Adults smile.
The guys also have become an important means of communication at home. They stick their tails up when they’re mad. When they’re happy, they flash a golden smile–with sparkling sound effects provided by the boys. If I’ve done something to annoy the younger members of the household, I may come into the room and see a whole line of guys, all with their tails skyward. But if I announce we’re making a doughnut run to the grocery store, I’m greeted with golden smiles all around.
My boys aren’t the only ones who are into stuffed animals. When the fifth graders went on an overnight trip to Camp Silverton, the supply list said each student could take along one stuffed animal. Under pressure, teachers later amended the list; students were allowed to take two stuffed friends each.
In this age of high-tech, online, shoot-em-up games, it’s good to see young people devote themselves to something as gentle and old-fashioned as stuffed animals. Stuffed animals help children develop empathy, exercise their imaginations, and hone their nurturing skills. The love children shower on them makes the world a brighter place.
Our stuffed friends have a special ministry of bringing out the best in all of us. They break down barriers and open hearts. I can’t imagine how I ever got along without them.
Christine Dubois is a widely published freelance writer, editor, and writing instructor, who lives near Seattle. Visit her at: www.christinedubois.com
- Photo: Mama Seal © Christine Dubois is licensed under a All Rights Reserved license