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!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia! When I was about 5, I became smitten with a 5-foot white plush snake I saw at Target. My parents encouraged me to save my own money to buy the silly thing – which I did! I am holding Snakey in my First Grade First Day of School picture! Snakey came with us on many family vacations, and served as a lovely barrier between my sister and I whenever we had to share a hotel bed.
    Snakey is of rather cumbersome size, however, and wasn’t a practical pal for airline travel. I think Snakey may still be in one of my closets!

    • Susan, I’m tempted to say a snake– even a stuffed imaginary one– is an unlikely plaything, but actually I had one myself that one of my siblings gave me as a Christmas gift! I liked it a lot but it was not my favorite of my many toy “friends.” I’m surprised you were allowed to take it to school and pose with it! In my day we weren’t allowed to take playthings to school at all, and certainly nobody could pose for a photo with one. We didn’t have Target when I was a kid, either…or Walmart. It was K-Mart, Zayres or Woolworth’s for the inexpensive stuff, and Rich’s department store for pricier things. But I digress, as Raynard would say…did you ever let your pwn kids play with Snakey?

      • LOL
        Yes, my kids were certainly encouraged to play with my stuffed animals, including Snakey, but as you would imagine – a five-foot-long stuffed plush snake appeals to some folks more than others!

        • It seems that kids almost never like the same things their parents liked. I know neither of our sons did, other than the huge exceptions of baseball (Drew) and books (Matt and, to some extent, Drew…but he was never as obsessive about books as Matt was). But in the case of a stuffed snake, yes, I can imagine that would not be the first thing on most people’s “warm and fuzzy” list.

  2. Sheila

    Good morning Julia. This story of long ago days and a very special stuffed “friend” never gets old. When Bill traveled while the girls were small, he always returned home with a stuffed animal for each of them. To this day they probably remember the presentation that he’d make upon his return. We have been in Knoxville Tennessee for 2 weeks and just love it here. We have rented a wonderful apartment until the end of October. Jack is with us so all is well. Bill began his proton therapy cancer treatment Thursday so we have 2 of 29 treatments completed. I hope all is well with you and Matt. Never a day passes that I don’t think of y’all fondly. I brought my OOTP calendar with me. We have a sweet little porch that has become a sanctuary with 2 new chairs and a yellow chrysanthemum. Home is a state of mind! Sure love y’all 🧡🙏🏻 She

    • Hi Sheila, I need to get in touch with you directly to find out more about what is going on with Bill. I think this is the first time I’ve connected the word “cancer” with what he was being treated for. Are you at UT? Jeff went to UTCHS (in Memphis) and I worked there at the medical school while he was in school. Not sure which schools have a campus at Knoxville but I imagine most of them do. Yes, East Tennessee is the prettiest part of the state — you do know there are three states of Tennessee? 😀 Having married a Tennessean and lived in that state for a combined total of over 12 years, I feel qualified to speak about it. 🙂 Enjoy the autumn in the lovely Smokey Mountains region!

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