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Memories Of a Childhood Toy
I clenched my twinkling, icy blue eyes shut tightly in fear as the cramped box I was packaged in was shaken violently back and forth. I could hardly hear anything in my little home except faint peals of laughter and the distant drone of talking. It was as if I was underwater, so tightly was I wrapped, and so seemingly near suffocation. I was practically blind in what dark, murky air there was, and the noises of laughter and conversation came in quick snatches.
Loud rips sounded out, and suddenly, as I opened my heavily lidded eyes, I found I could see again. I was blinded momentarily as the bright light seared my vision. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force my eyelids to close. It was as if I was one of the lifeless dolls I had seen at the toy factory, with their open, staring eyes, and plastic bodies. A petite little girl, about three or four years in age, it seemed, had torn open the box that had concealed me only moments earlier, and was currently holding me in her arms lovingly. Her stick straight golden hair glinted in the same light that had blinded me seconds before, and her eyes were the color of my own, a beautifully colored crystalline blue that would later develop into a grayish color.
“What is it, sweetie?” asked a woman sitting nearby, who I assumed to be the girl’s mother. The girl lifted me up and smiled cheerfully.
“It’s a tiger, Mommy!” she said, her voice thin and high as a reed blowing in the wind. She shook me again, and I surprised myself by emitting a purring noise.
“Listen! She makes noise!” the little girl exclaimed, excitement in her gleaming eyes. She hugged me tightly, and suddenly, I knew I was going to a good home.
“Yes, she does, doesn’t she? What are you going to name her?” asked the little girl’s mother, who, I realized, was cradling a sleeping baby tightly wrapped in warm blankets in her arms. There were other people in the room as well, but at the time, I didn’t notice them, being as heavily focused on the girl and her mother as I was, enthralled as a little child listening to a story.
“I want to name her Rajah!” cried the little girl suddenly, after a few moments of thought. The woman smiled understandingly and nodded. And, as if by some enchantingly magical spell, from that moment on, the only name I would ever respond to, the only name I would call myself in my mind, was Rajah.
I finally learned that the girl’s name was Marie. She was, at times, stubborn as a mule, and always a fussy eater, but she was my best friend, and I hers. Those first few years, we did everything together, from going to Grandma’s house and sleepovers, to car rides and spending lazy days at home. There was rarely a moment when we were apart.
In my memories, the early days have a faint glow about them, a golden tinge around the edges. When I think of those days, I smile in bittersweet longing, caught between happiness upon remembrance, and sorrow for the loss of such a precious time. Childhood is a funny thing. When they’re young, children can’t wait for adulthood – and when they’ve grown up, they long for the innocence and ignorance of childhood. Yet there is an in-between time, too few years, precious as gold in their value. In these years, children are simply content to be young. These are the days they will long to remember when they are living in times they wish to forget.
When it was nighttime, Marie would clutch me to her tightly under heaps of cozy covers and fall asleep almost immediately. Sometimes I would stay awake late at night, so content inside that I felt I would burst open with happiness. Other times, the two cats that her family owned, one a sleek, lithe streak of pearly white, and the other a large blob of fiery orange, would sneak into her bedroom at night. With great bounds, they would leap onto the bed, and then, after checking Marie over to make sure she was unharmed, they would sniff me meticulously, as if I was a dangerous chemical or something else of an unsavory nature. They then would curl up beside us, the tiny snow white cat by Marie’s head, and the fat fiery orange one by her feet.
The nights Marie did neglect me, which were few, were spent located in a large wicker basket with all of the other toys, who were hatefully envious of me. I knew they actively disliked me – how could I not? It was clear with every sneering face, each jeering insult that came my way, but I adopted an air of indifference towards their animosity. I foolishly believed myself above them, because I was Marie’s favorite toy, her chosen companion. I never dreamed that one day, I would long for their acceptance. Never, in my most horrific nightmares, did I envision a future for myself, alone and rejected, among these sorry excuses for toys.
One incident that will be burned in my memory forever took place at the first house I lived in with Marie. It was a horridly hot summer day, the sun beating down on us in all its mid-afternoon glory, if I remember correctly. We were exploring the area near a swing that Marie called the Magic School Bus when we froze in mid-step. Well, Marie froze in mid-step, and I, cradled in her arms, watched her stop abruptly. She opened her eyes wider and wider until I thought I was going to drown in the icy blue lakes plastered onto her face. I followed her gaze, and saw that she was staring at a small, dandelion yellow and ebony striped bumblebee, sitting contentedly on the teal colored bar of the swing set.
“Rajah,” she whispered softly, voice trembling in fear, “What are we going to do? I’m scared, Rajah.” She squeezed me so hard to her chest I felt that my stuffing would pop out of one of my loosening seams. I tried to signal to her with unblinking eyes that we should move away from the bee, but she didn’t understand, and she never would. Already, I could sense her slowly slipping away from me, as if in slow motion, headed towards late childhood, where imagination and make-believe grow scarce, rarely seen again.
Marie began to back up, away from the lazily buzzing bee, and my heart soared with joy and hope. Had she gotten my signal? Or was it just a coincidence? And just as suddenly as it had soared, my heart sank. I realized forlornly it wasn’t possible that she had read my eyes and understood. After all, she was a human, and humans are not known for their intelligence. But my Marie, she was a very bright little girl, quietly reading her books and playing make-believe contentedly. Despite this, I knew that she could never have understood, no matter how much I fervently wished to believe otherwise.
The bee was still resting on the grimy metal bar, unaware of our presence. Marie continued stumbling backwards blindly, and bumped into the Magic School Bus swing. There was a loud crunch, and Marie screamed horrifically as swarms of bees flew out of the beehive she had just stepped on. She flailed her arms around wildly, causing me to shoot out of her arms and plummet into the seat of the Magic School Bus swing, paralyzed, forced to watch her shriek and yell in fear even as my heart went out to her. She ran up to the patio, where her mother and brother had been sitting. Miraculously, only three bees, instead of the whole hive, had stung her.
A spear of terror stabbed painfully into my heart as I saw them head into the house, Marie sobbing at full volume. I tried to cry out to them to make myself heard, hopelessly, but my thread lips wouldn’t open, no matter how hard I struggled against the seams that bound me. I felt sobs gather themselves in my throat when it was clear that they weren’t coming back, and probably wouldn’t for quite some time. I realized miserably that I had no tears to cry, would never have tears to cry. And that was the saddest thing of all.
That was the scariest night of my life, spent out in the chilly, unforgiving air, lonely and deserted. The bees, luckily, hadn't returned to their smashed hive, and never did come back. No, it wasn't fear of the bees that had me on edge throughout that long, terrifying night. It was the eerie, primitive way the wind danced and sang in the dense woods behind the house, as if it kept secrets that I would never know. I kept a tiny ball of hope in my heart for her return, guarded it fiercely against any doubts in my mind. And yet, it grew smaller with each miserable hour that I remained alone. I chastised myself angrily, hardly believing that I had so little faith in her, vehemently praying that she would appear and disprove my doubts.
Morning found me still sitting dejectedly in the Magic School Bus swing, the lump of tears still gathered tightly in my throat. I felt so useless, so unwanted, rather like a battered green blade of grass in an otherwise perfect lawn. How could I have foolishly let myself believe that I actually meant anything to her, believed that I was significant to her at all? I hung my head forlornly, and it was at that moment when the last bits of hope that I had kept pressed so closely to my heart slipped away, floating in the lightening air into nothingness.
A short while later, I heard a door in the house slam and my ebony ears perked up at the sound of little footsteps clicking and clacking madly across the gray cement garage floor. A pale blond head peeked out of the door that led out to the patio and as soon as I saw Marie's grinning face, the stony lump of tears clustered in my throat dissipated like a rainbow cutting through storm clouds. She rushed onto the patio, and was nearly to the swing set when a look of recognition and fear crossed her face. She hesitated, and I could feel the tears hardening again.
"Rajah! I found you!" Marie exclaimed, as if it had never occurred to her that she had abandoned me, left me alone and helpless. "But what if the bees come back?"
Her voice had changed to that of a worried tone, and the hope I had harbored so jealously, cared for so preciously, the hope that had reappeared with a fierce nature at her return, slipped bit by bit from my heart. I grew worried, wondering if she could muster up the courage to run over to the Magic School Bus swing and scoop me up into her arms lovingly. If I could have crossed my fingers, if I even had fingers, I would have fervently been doing so at the time.
Marie took a deep breath, and I could see her mentally gathering all the bravery and determination she had in her tiny body. She clenched her little fists tightly, screwed up her mouth with resolve, and barreled down the green lawn quickly, darting over the smooth grass, her bare feet hardly touching the ground. She grabbed me up in her arms, and as she did so, the tiny ball of hope in my heart began to grow and shine until it radiated a wondrous warmth that filled my very being. She sprinted back to the patio, and there we plopped down on the rough cement roughly, exhausted. Since that day, I have never been forgotten anywhere, and my faith in Marie has never wavered.
One of the most horrible experiences in my life was when Marie was still young, and I was getting steadily older with each day that went by, filled with love and play. Not much time had passed since the bee incident had occurred, and my striped fur was beginning to clump and mat in great snarls of orange and black. My cool blue eyes, once so strikingly round and large in my small, striped face, were now obscured by matted fur. The wobbly loose seams near one of my legs and in my stomach were all I could think about during those days.
It happened one day, while Marie was playing a game of "Barbies being attacked by a tiger". I was chasing the Barbies up a pillow that Marie insisted was really a cliff, sensing and enjoying the fear hidden in their aqua blue eyes. As I was leaping across a valley between two cliffs, I pushed off the pillow with all of my strength, and suddenly felt an excruciating pain. I watched helplessly, mortified, as my back right leg dangled by a thread, and then fell off completely.
"Mom!" yelled Marie as she saw my mutilated leg, dropping the Barbies on the couch as she rushed to my aid in this horrible tragedy. "Mom! Rajah's leg fell off!"
She picked me up rapidly with one hand and grabbed my leg in the other. She ran up to her mom, who was sitting at the worn dining room table, and tugged on her sleeve repeatedly. Her mother looked at her silently, and then turned her gaze to me.
"Put her on the table, Marie, and then go and get my sewing kit," she said in an unconcerned voice.
Marie ran off towards the living room again, and then her mother picked me up and studied me closely, the way a gem cutter looks at jewels before working on them.
"You're really getting old, aren't you, Rajah?" she said quietly.
She put me back on the table when Marie returned, staggering under the weight of the small purple sewing box. She set it on the table with a thud, and then stood on her mother's right side.
"You can fix her, can't you?" she asked timidly. Her mother nodded.
"I'll get her fixed as soon as I can, okay?" Seeing Marie's nod, she continued. "Now why don't you go and play with your Barbies now? They're probably getting lonely in there."
An hour later, I was sitting on the dining room table, leg sewed back on, and the hole in my stomach newly patched. I felt so much better, as the two things I had been worrying about for what seemed like forever were finally fixed. I sighed in relief, suddenly happy. It felt so good to be normal again.
Now I look on those days and laugh at myself for being so foolish to worry about trivial things like that, when I should have been focusing on the way Marie was slipping away from childhood, slowly but steadily. I should have cherished the short time we had together with relish, but I was acting blindly, for all purposes like a stubborn mule until it sees a carrot. Now I spend my days sitting in the wicker basket with all of her other toys that she doesn't use anymore. We talk sometimes, mainly about how we miss the old days when we were used.
My fur, which was beginning to snarl years ago, is now matted in clumps of fuzz, and my whiskers are barely noticeable beneath it all. I still purr when shaken, and I haven't needed to be sewn together for years now. My eyes are still as blue as ever, an icy, crystalline shade, but I'm beginning to tire of sitting in the basket all day. I'm beginning to wait for something more. There has to be more than this to a toy's life, more than sitting around dejectedly, unused in a wicker basket full of other unused toys. I still love Marie dearly, and my faith in her has never faltered, but now I'm waiting for the next part of my life to begin.
I still have a faint glimmer of hope barely left in the depths of my heart. I can feel it sometimes, if I search hard enough, and wish fervently enough. But I know that it's still there, sure as the sun will rise, sure as the way Marie looks at me lovingly when I'm taken out, as if she's trying to remember the years of her childhood in the span of a memory. I know one day, she'll take me out, and we'll be best friends again. I'm sure of it.