Ah, a girl and her stuffed animals. There is an unspoken bond there, something we know about but don’t acknowledge. It is just a simple underlying love that the little girl in all of us possesses. My little stash is tucked away in a chest in my living room. I can’t bear to part with them, and in ways, I suppose I still think of them now as I thought of them then, and now they are just a little secret support system when I can steal away five minutes to feel five years old again.
Each of my animals is special to me because they symbolize a moment in time when something was good. One, a teddy bear I named Max, whom I used to drag around Grama Barb’s house. I remembered taking him with me, along with a small baby blanket with colored elephants on it. I remember taking a necklace with me, a rubber Earth on a black cord, presumably from one of the many times Grama took us to the Planetarium. I remotely remember thinking, even then, at five, that I needed to take something to remember. That was the day she and my father had a falling out and he took me. He took me from her and I remember her crying on the back stoop, yelling at him not to come back if he brought “her” with him, and him half-guiding, mostly-dragging me from my elbow down the long cement front porch, and then swinging me into his car. It must have been the Celebrity, because it had big red seats. Or maybe the car was red and it wasn’t the Celebrity after all. Either way, it took me away from Before – somewhere I’ve spent twenty-plus years trying to get back to. So Max has stuck around.
The bunny, a white bunny with red eyes. My father is strange. Perhaps it was a dog toy. Perhaps he forgot to send me a Christmas present. Maybe he is ashamed when he hears me speak of it because he knows he has no idea what I’m talking about. Who knows? At four years old, I believed that my mysterious “real dad” had sent it to me during a faraway Christmas with my mother, one of the Christmases I got to spend with my daddy while he was still my daddy. (To be clear, my mother’s second husband.)
Maybe that is why I hold on to Applesauce. Part of me keeps it for my father, who maybe really did think of me, and take time to miss me that Christmas. I keep it for that sentiment. Maybe in that moment he cared.
Part of me keeps it because it is something that survived the transition between my daddy being there and him being gone. There’s not much, besides what my brothers have held onto, that has made it through each of our parent’s several moves and questionable life choices. But there’s always been a little white bunny, a product of the Applause Company, something from the likes of a dive bar’s crane machine. A word that, to a six year old, looks a lot like a cute bunny name like Applesauce.
And then there’s Wolfie.
He’s a small little wolf-like pup, decked out in a red ribbon collar with a big Valentine heart boldly declaring that he is WILD ABOUT YOU. He is a memory of a sweet moment, and as I dug him from the vault this afternoon, I realized he is a stark reminder of how closely we follow in our mother’s footsteps.
First, let me address my Wolfie. The first one.
I met him in a Hallmark store, while it was still situated in a mall that was still thriving back then. Said mall is now practically my backyard, and it is a graveyard of some pretty epic teenage memories. But this was before all that, and this was a moment I have never felt more familiar with than I did today.
Going back to my father’s house was never easy. Those Sundays were the worst. The ride back, the tears held back, the headache from holding those tears back, the promises to see me soon, the promises to be a good girl, the driving away, the pretending to be okay with it, everything. It was awful. She always tried to make Sundays fun. We would do things like go to the mall, which, back then, was pretty cool. We would go to the flea market, which was always fun because it smelled weird and had so many different things, so many boxes of little breakable plastic things we just knew would make us happy forever and ever if we just could have a dollar to buy them, and sometimes she would just go all out and we would have the most fun of all: she would let me tag along as she ran errands. On this particular errand, she was buying a Valentine card. So we ventured into the Hallmark store, and on the tall glass shelf of various cute stuffed animals sat a little wolf pup.
My mom is a wolf fanatic. At seven years old, I was a mom fanatic. I wanted to be just. Like. Her. So I modeled everything after her. I wanted her haircut, to wear her clothes, to wear her makeup and match my nails to hers. I wanted to talk like her, to walk like her, to like what she liked and be all the beautiful, glamorous things she was to me. Underneath all of that, I thought, “If I’m just like her, she will like me.” If she likes me, she will want to spend time with me. If she wants to spend time with me, she will want me to live with her, and she will take me away from the dad who cared just enough to mail me a consolation prize for Christmas.
While gazing at the wolf pup, thinking that if it were in my possession, I would be that much closer towards being Just Like My Mom, she caught me staring and took advantage of the opportunity to shine in my starry eyes. She asked me what I was looking at, and of course, I answered, “Oh, nothing.” So she went straight to the point and asked me, “Do you want it?”
I don’t know why I’m so scared of letting people be nice to me, but as soon as that random act of kindness is extended towards me, my shyness escalates and my cheeks ignite. I slowly nodded and said, “Sure…, “ in a tone that I hoped wouldn’t betray the relief my little begging heart was feeling.
It was a moment of pure kindness. I know that she didn’t get me back then, and I didn’t understand her, either. I idolized her in ways I can only look back and shake my head on now. But I smile. It’s okay to want to be just like your mom when all she is to you at that point, is wonderful.
Wolfie came out of the trunk today because he came up in a discussion with my oldest about her own prized plushie – Wolfie. As I realized the similarities in our connections with our respectable Wolfies, I was quietly reminded that I am my mother’s daughter, and that is both a blessing and a curse. It reminded me of an old Native American story (allegedly; I admit that I only read the Facebook meme) of two wolves.
We are wolf women; we are fighters and lovers, good with our evil moments. We fight our curses and sometimes our blessings, and sometimes we accept them, and this is our downfall. One of the these curses was apathy – and as our Wolfies met face-to-face today, I was reminded of the presence of my bad wolf, and my ability (and mine alone) to overcome her.
Be a better mother to your daughter than yours was to you. Even if you had the best mother in the world. Do this, because if you can do nothing else with your good heart, you have made at least one person’s life that much better for it, and you are making the most stable footprints in which your daughter can follow. Feed your good wolf, and hers will know how to feed.
-xoxo : )