On the Christmas after my first birthday, my parents gave me a stuffed monkey with overalls, affectionately known as George. Somewhere among my unpacked belongings rests this monkey, bearing (or more accurately, missing) marks of love. His lips and nose have long been tattered, and he’s turned limp from the disproportionate accumulation of stuffing to his head and feet. George serves as a symbolic reminder of a once active imagination.
All of my stuffed animals played a role in the story, complete with their own personalities. I was the puppeteer: the face behind a blanket draped over the bottom bunk like a fort. Every kid loves a fort; I’d love to explore the psychology behind it. Perhaps the independence and autonomy of having one’s own space is appealing, something the child has built to become his or her own. Anything from my blanket to a large refrigerator box will do, so long as it becomes the child’s. I wonder the correlation between fort builders and those that never had their own room…
Like my imagination, George slowly became less prominent: moving from my pillow to the foot of my bed, to a chair that sat him upright and ultimately to the box in my closet. I wouldn’t have the heart to part with him, nor could I tell you why. We cling to symbols as if a passing piece of our memory will cease to exist.
I have a picture of toddler Anthony at Christmas; a Fisher Price tricycle sits in the background with George seated like a champ. Lips and nose in full expression, it’s the most George that George will ever be. However, it was our adventures that aged his appearance: he lost those lips when I placed him in our fireplace and shut the door, more than likely sending him to Saturn in a cast iron portal that reached beyond the roof of our atmosphere. My mom saved him from the mission, wiping off the cold ash and placing him in the washer. It wasn’t his last hurrah.
It will not remain this way. Today’s children have a multitude of pictures capturing these moments to feed their future nostalgia, whereas we had a picture and a spaghetti pile of memories attached. Grab a strand from the picture and soon we’ll be discussing Muppet Babies and The Real Ghostbusters like they were on this past Saturday morning. “Vintage” has become a term used by college students to describe items from their childhood as if they aged much more quickly than ours. We hadn’t realized that Saturday morning cartoons were dead until we had our own kids; only then did we muse about them as relics lost in time. Fragments formatted from VHS home videos have surfaced on youtube. Fragments… audio-visual transference of the polaroids that captured our youth.
I’ll admit being grateful for this. George will surface when the time is ripe, and the time capsule of my childhood will spark a sensation of imagination that cannot be found in a Facebook selfie. It will continue to remind me that my imagination has not died. I pray your fragment serves you just as well.