Andrew and I are having a little disagreement over our newest companion. Andrew insists this innocent little fellow is the creepiest thing he’s ever seen. That’s a pretty bold statement from someone who has seen every episode of Miami Vice, including the one where they turn Tubbs into a zombie.
When I first saw Squirrel Baby on the shelf at the thrift store, I admit I agreed with Andrew. “Wow! That is really ugly!” I said as Andrew urged me to purchase the stuffed toy as a gag gift. But then as I gazed into his little blue plastic eyes I felt guilty, as though I had told someone that their child certainly was no looker.
Squirrel Baby is an Ann Geddes creation, that artist who specializes in posing babies in weird outfits to make them look like sunflowers or cabbages. He has a plastic baby face with a neutral expression that can either seem like he’s pleased to see you or that he’s gravely disappointed in you. One of his plastic hands is clenched, like he might be thinking about punching something. The rest of him is covered in synthetic polyester fur. He even has a tail.
“Please”, Andrew begged as I set Squirrel Baby up on my bedside table, “Let’s put him away in a box.”
“Hush!” I said as I placed my hands over Squirrel Baby’s soft ears. “He’ll hear you.”
“You’re scaring me” Andrew replied.
What Andrew hadn’t taken into account, before we brought Squirrel Baby into our home, was my nearly supernatural ability to anthropomorphize almost any inanimate object. I’ve stopped short of naming my socks, but don’t ask me to part with the porcelain two headed swan vase, the spooky owl portrait from the 1970’s, the sloppily carved wooden lion, or the ceramic Christmas elf.
I even have a framed photograph of someone else’s cat. It really is a spectacular cat.
We will also not include the 32 IKEA “Gravling” stuffed toy badgers. I bought the first one and then Andrew, afraid that IKEA would discard them, bought the rest when they landed in the clearance bin.
When I was younger (like last month) I cried over The Velveteen Rabbit. I can’t bear to watch Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer because of the scene with all the forgotten toys abandoned on the Island of Misfit Toys. I still haven’t seen Toy Story 3, because I heard that’s the one where the child goes off to school and forgets all about his loyal toy companions.
Squirrel Baby sits beside me at my desk when I write, and occasionally I bring him into the living room to keep company with the badgers, or out onto our balcony where he can get some fresh air with the owls. I’m not going to put Squirrel Baby in a box, but I’ll pledge to Andrew that we will stop short of hoarding when it comes to purchasing cast off toys. Just because there are some rooms where we cannot walk through side by side doesn’t mean we have “goat trails.”
I do believe that the discarded, forgotten, and imperfect are deserving and need our love, for haven’t we all, at one time or another, resided on the Island of Misfit Toys?