I anthropomorphize. Pretty much everything, all the time. Of course, I idealize, too. Not only do I see creatures as human, but I see them as beings of the kind that I wish people were.
I don’t always think about this tendency, but I have been more aware of it recently.
While wandering through the largest shopping mall convenient to my home—convenient in that it is not all that far away, which is not to say convenient—I realized the Christmas gift I was seeking for my friend Lynn was not in the mall at all, but at a farm even more convenient to my home. My Dear One and I had visited Wild Rose Suri Alpacas a while back during an open house. The alpacas were adorable, and what’s not to love about camelids with acutely intelligent eyes obscured by long woolly bangs, but what came to my present-focused mind were the teddy bears in the shop. These toys were soft and cuddly in a way that makes the phrase “soft and cuddly” seem descriptive of Brer Rabbit’s briar patch.
Lynn’s employer AT&T is transferring her from Cleveland, Ohio, to Detroit, Michigan, in the dead of winter. I think what she needs most is a soft and cuddly squeeze. She needs an alpaca teddy bear.
There was a beautiful bear with creamy alpaca dreadlocks, sort of long, tall Rasta dude of a bear. I held him, and hugged him and fell in love. I picked up another bear, this one rounder, more of a Paddington kind of fellow, with a golden smudge across his tummy. I loved them both.
How could I choose? How could I adopt one and leave the other homeless?
When I was, oh, seven or eight I suppose, I tucked my dolls and animals in with me every night when I went to bed, half on one side, half on the other. Although all were safe and snug as I closed my eyes, I knew a few would end up on the floor; there was only so much room in the four-poster than came from Granny’s house. I knew they would understand that such is the law of the crowded bed, but I worried. To ensure than no toy would feel singled out for abuse, I rotated them away from the edges. Each one took a tumble at some point. Each one knew the security of the pile of us at the center.
A tiny honey-colored bear caught my eye as I stood in a quandary. A tad larger than the palm of my hand, he seemed insistent that I choose him too. “Judy,” I thought I heard him whisper. “Judy wants me.”
My Dear One waited patiently and oh-so-gently prodded me toward a decision. I put Rasta down, gently and sorrowfully. I nestled Honey between Paddington’s paws, paid up and sidled out, avoiding eye-contact with those I was callously leaving behind.
At home, I whispered reassurances as I separated the bears into boxes cushioned with layers of tissue. Only for a moment would they be alone and in the dark, I said. Soon they would be with Lynn and Judy. Soon they would have their own happy homes.
I suddenly have the urge to read The Velveteen Rabbit and I remember my favorite lines:
“I am the nursery magic Fairy,” she said. “I take care of all the playthings that the children have loved. When they are old and worn out and the children don’t need them any more, then I come and take them away with me and turn them into Real.”
“Wasn’t I Real before?” asked the little Rabbit.
“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one.”