Things that look used

This threadbare little raccoon has seen the world.   Vacaville, CA, en route back to Tennessee, August 2003

This threadbare little raccoon has seen the world.
Gludgey in Drew’s room in Vacaville, CA, soon headed back to Tennessee, August 2003

“I like things that look used, especially when they were used by someone who matters to me.” Gary Hager

Does this raggedy raccoon look familiar?  If so, you may have seen him in this post.  Actually, I have pictures of him in any number of places; looking out the window of the Coast Starlight, cruising the Caribbean, catching the rays of Hawaiian sunshine.  He’s a world traveler, and though he never talks about his experiences, they have clearly left their mark on him.

On Drew’s first Christmas, when he was about 9 months old, our dear friends who were his unofficial godparents gave him this then-plush and beautiful toy raccoon.  For reasons never clear to us, Drew soon told us “his name is Gludgey.” (Drew was an early talker, but the spelling was my own guess that met his later approval.)  Gludgey has been everywhere with Drew, for more years than we would have ever predicted.  In fact, as Drew got older, I was a bit torn between being happy that he was not eager to leave childhood behind, and worried that his friends would tease him for hanging on to his dearly loved toy companion.  If Drew felt the slightest bit self-conscious about it, he gave no sign of it.

I’m not exaggerating.  Gludgey went away to summer camps, on all our vacations, even on medical mission trips to South America with his buddy who was by then in high school.  Then he went off to college with Drew, thousands of miles from his California home.  The next year, the day Drew left to go back to school at the end of the summer, Jeff came into the kitchen with a rather sad expression on his face.  “I see Drew left Gludgey behind this time.  That’s the end of that.  I guess he has finally grown up.”

That night the phone rang. “I forgot to bring Gludgey — can you mail him to me?”  I agreed, but I snapped several photos first (including the one above) in case the Gludgemeister got lost in the mail.  He didn’t.  In fact, I believe he went to Athens and later, to Oxford with Drew, spending those overseas semesters with him.  I have to wonder what Drew’s classmates thought.

In case you’re curious, Gludgey was consigned to a closet shelf when Drew married and had the good sense to take someone else’s decorating preferences into consideration, but I suppose the venerable raccoon will re-emerge about the time Grady is old enough to notice him.  As these things tend to go, Grady may not like him– at least not at first– but he probably won’t have immediate veto power.

Do you have old, well-loved toys, blankets or other comfort objects (including furniture) that you would not part with for anything newer or grander?  I’ve found that many of us do.  At nearly 57, I have a soft spot in my heart for anyone who treasures old things.  As the wonderful story The Velveteen Rabbit so eloquently describes it, it’s not getting OLD – it’s becoming REAL.  Please tell us about your favorite “real” things!

27 Comments

  1. It probably will not involve “a mask”, but do not be surprised if you do not get a lot of personal attachment comments. In his book,”The Four Loves”, Clive Lewis uses a similie to describe the Greek word, storage’.Paraphrasing: he says it’s like an old couch that feels so comfortable, day after day, within one’s home; but that it would seem taudry in the out-of-doors.

    • Hi Eric, the questions are also meant to simply jog the memory and can be answered via the comments, or privately, in one’s own mind. But I think mothers love to recall their children’s stories, as these comments reveal! I loved hearing about “‘Nother Pooh” and about Aaron’s disappearing blanket!

  2. Megan

    As Drew says, Gludgey will act as gatekeeper for all of Grady’s other toys. 🙂 He is still loved, even in the closet. 🙂 I love this post!!

    • Thanks, Megan! He is like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit. If you haven’t read that book yet, I highly recommend it!

  3. Reminds me of “The Velveteen Rabbit”…

    • My thoughts exactly!

  4. MaryAnn

    My mother, who you know as an expert in crochet, made blankets for all her grandchildren. My oldest grandson, Aaron, was attached to his blanket like you describe Drew’s raccoon. The blanket’s name was “Mimmon” (rhymes w/ lemon). Mimmon went everywhere Aaron went: Science Camp in 6th grade, Sierra Bible Camp, friend’s homes, vacations. We, too, thought he would be teased. He never mentioned being embarrassed about taking it w/ him. Mimmon would have gone to UCSB, but it had been “disappearing” a bit after each washing. No one knows what happened to the small handful that was still being held by Aaron at night. (Best guess is the family dog, because he loved it, also!)
    For my youngest grandson, Aaric, his mom bought a sheepskin & slept w/ it before he was born. He is almost 12 & MUST have it to sleep, it went to Science Camp, Sierra Bible Camp, sleepovers, etc. No embarrassment reported.
    Amanda, our only granddaughter, did not have an attachment like that. She asked me to make a quilt for her room at Mills College. She chose black & white “Frogs”, w/ flannel backing; so I think the “soft” is what she wanted.
    Great trip down memory lane!

    • I love the idea of a slowly disappearing blanket made with love by Ms. Annie! Our comfort objects are not always stuffed toys.

  5. Carlyle

    Julia, I do not believe your attachment lasted into adulthood but I do remember a time when you would not go to sleep without your ” Wooley Booger”

    • Yes Daddy, I thought of that while I was writing this post. It was just a strip of fake fur with google eyes on it, but I surely did get attached to it. I kept it for years, long after the googly eyes were gone, and it probably looked like some sort of dust cloth and got thrown away. My memory is that you brought one each back from a trip for Carla and me. It seems like Al got something different, but I can’t remember what. I do remember he once got this fierce hard plastic bear that was called “Bop a Bear” – it was motorized and when you shot it with a plastic dart gun, it roared, turned and “ran” in the opposite direction. Al HATED for anyone to shoot the “Bop a Bear” – it made him cry to think the bear was hurt – and then he asked if he could sleep with it! It was about the size of a basketball and made of metal and hard plastic, so someone talked him out of it. But it was like a pet to him, not something to shoot a dart gun at.

  6. I have dragged many things from pillar to post but my favorite story is not my own. When Aaron was just a baby I got a little seasonal job working at the Disney store so I could get away from home a little bit. It was fun and I got to help Santa out that year. One of the things I got was a velveteen Pooh for Aaron. It had a little chime in it. He fell in love with that Pooh. He dragged him every where. When Aaron was just over a year we went to Ascension and of course Pooh went with us. That bear would get so icky. I would put him in the washer, which was British and a front loader, and Aaron would sit on the floor in front of the washer watching the laundry go round. Ever once in awhile you could hear him whisper, “Pooh, Pooh!” It was very sad but worse was that I would then hang him on the line to dry. It was agonizing for Aaron. I sent to my friends at the store to see if they could find another one and send it to us. They did. BOY was Aaron happy. Happy but not to be fooled, he knew there was “Pooh” and ” ‘Nother Pooh”. Today they sit side by side on the self in Aarons room. “Pooh” has seen much better days. ” ‘Nother” Pooh looks like he walked out of the store today. Unlike Drew Aaron did not take Pooh to college with him but I know he won’t be throwing him away either. Thanks for sharing and I am sure that your grandbaby will have his own “Gludgey”

    • Amy, I LOVE this!! Aaron is going to appear in an upcoming post, so anyone who reads this will be able to connect them (though he’s older in my post, and pictured with Dreyfus). I love that “Nother Pooh!” You must have seemed like the mistress of the torture chamber putting his little bear in the machine and then hanging him to boot! Matt’s favorite comfort object was also Pooh, and he looks very threadbare too. At least I didn’t have to sew his tail back on multiple times as I did with Gludgey! Thanks for telling us about this sweet story.

  7. Grudgey has travelled more extensively than some people I know. How dear is that. I’m glad you raised a man, comfortable enough in himself to not be intimidated by what others may think or say.

    I do have one item from my childhood still, it’s a Baby Secret. You pull a cord and her lips move and she whispers. I showed it to my husband just the other day and he said it was creepy, LOL. I almost had to agree with him. But as a child, she sat on my bed and looked so angelic. I wanted hair like hers for a long time. It’s in a ponytail. I wasn’t allowed long hair (?? don’t really know why, I think it was thought of as too much work). It’s probably why I wear it longer now, because I can 😀

    • Same here on the long hair. I always wore my hair in what my mother called a “pixie cut” until I was a teenager. As an adult I find that long hair is easier to maintain than short hair; I just pull it back most of the time and put it in one my little snoods. (I’m the only one I know who wears them and they are hard to find!) It is more trouble to wash and dry it, but I never really do much else to it.

      I can see where your little doll would seem creepy to a man. I remember there was an episode of Twilight Zone where this talking doll named “Talky Tina” came after the girl’s father and eventually “killed” him. Totally creepy for sure. My talking doll seemed a bit sinister to me after that. See this abbreviated clip – it’s funny to me now, but imagine a little kid watching this! No wonder I often had trouble sleeping!

      • We would have been two pea’s in a pod with our ‘pixie cuts’. Yep, same thing. I think model Twiggy was the big influence. I had longer hair in grade 3 I think. I’ll have to look back. Hey? What’s a snood? You southern girls are so hip ! 😀

        Re: Talking Tina……Holy Toledo, she was a nightmare!! LOL. Isn’t the dad
        Telly Savalas from Kojak fame? We always watched Twilight Zone (probably old reruns when we tuned in), it was a blast. My doll whispers, “I want to tell you a secret”. Now I freaked out too, LOL Do you remember a show called ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’ with Darren McGavin? We watched that one too. Why did we used to like being spooked when we were little? I’m too chicken to watch horror movies now. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and for sharing your story too.

        • I wear the miniature snoods that are attached to hair clips. You can see some samples of them here. Rolling up long hair and tucking it inside a snood keeps it cool and out of the way. It also prevents frizzing due to humidity. As a bonus, when you take the clip and snood off, the ends of the hair are curly from being rolled up inside the snood. I picked up the habit of wearing them while I was a student at the University of Hawaii. Whether I rode the bus or drove to campus, I had to walk at least a mile to classes in the heat and humidity. When I’d get to the comparatively CHILLY library (kept below 70 degrees at all times for preservation reasons) I would pull off the clip & snood – my hair would be frizz-free and curly on the ends, and kept me warm in the cool temperatures. So easy! I used to think I would start some kind of fad, but 20 years later, I’m still the only one I know who wears them. Good thing I’ve never been too accustomed to being in style!

          I had completely missed the fact that it was Telly Savalas who was the evil stepdad killed by Talky Tina. I vaguely remember hearing of Night Stalker, but never watched it. Between watching Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and Alfred Hitchcock, I got my fill of scary things and now avoid them totally. I’m a bit less nervous now, for sure! My imagination is too big to be able to stand scary stuff. Suspense is OK; psychological thrillers (such as Misery) are interesting. But the appeal of graphic horror for some people is something I’ll never understand.

          • oh, THAT’s a snood. Reminiscent of the 40’s. Smart way to curl your hair too. I haven’t seen them here but then again, no humidity here. I’ve seen a lot of young girls wearing buns. They do it with a donut type thing and roll it up somehow.
            I bet a whole lot of kids would love to go to ‘The University of Hawaii’. Did your folks live there then too?

            • No, I went to UH in my late 30’s – graduate school (School of Library and Information Studies). My undergrad years were at Lipscomb University in Nashville, which is where Jeff and I met. I think I made much better use of my studies in graduate school; undergrad was mostly about learning to live away from home, making friends, having fun – studies seemed to be a secondary consideration there. At UH I was much more focused on actually learning. The bonus of going to UH is that I felt like a true kama’aina instead of the malahini I was before starting school. During my years at UH, most of my friends were locals and I came to really know and experience the culture. The history of Hawaii is beautiful but also very sad.

              • I’ve been lucky to visit Hawaii a few times. The first thing I notice when we land is the moisture in the air and how it smells so good. It’s really dry here all winter and there’s nothing green or growing or blooming. Hawaii is always such a mid winter treat. How great for you to become part of the community and make good friends while achieving your goals. You’ve had such interesting experiences

                • Thank you! Sometimes when I feel sorry for myself, I remind myself that whatever else can be said about my life, it certainly has been interesting! Somehow, realizing that makes me feel better. Hawaii was indeed beautiful in winter. I loved going to the beach on Christmas Eve, or being outside enjoying the lights and decorations WITHOUT getting cold!

  8. Sorry Gludgey, silly me, I spelt your name wrong.

    • I think “Grudgey” is hilarious! That’s what we should call him now that he’s a grouchy old man. I just hope he is not as “grudgey” as Talky Tina!

  9. Sheila

    Julia, the comments really have been varied and fun to read. I thought Megan was so sweet to share the update on Gludgey. I can imagine he will be WOODY in Grady’s very own toy story! Loved the post! Still in Orlando.

    • Thanks, Sheila, for keeping in touch during your trip! Hope you are having a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious time!

  10. My old teddy bear was called Scruff. He was given to me when I was a baby. He was almost threadbare,mainly because I gave him a haircut when I was about 4 years old. And yes, he used to come everywhere with me. Once, when I was about 24 I left him in a hotel. After a panicked phone call they posted him home to me. He arrived neatly wrapped with a note saying ‘Did you miss me?’

    • How kind of the innkeepers to realize that Scruff was a VIB (very important bear). Isn’t it funny how many of us give our toys haircuts? I had an old Midge doll (Barbie’s friend back in the early 60’s) and I bobbed off her hair and couldn’t understand why it just didn’t look right. I think it’s so cool that you carried Scruff with you into adulthood just as Drew carried his raccoon. It’s wonderful to treasure something we already have, rather than always wanting something shiny and new. Thanks for visiting here! And give Jez and Max a hug for me.

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