Yesterday, I discovered that Michaels Arts and Crafts is one of the coolest stores ever. We stopped by so Eddie could pick up some paint supplies and wound up shopping for hours. I walked up and down each aisle grabbing at random items thinking, I should learn to knit or Ethan would love that train puzzle! I made a mental list of to-do projects, including but not limited to: make my own jewelry, learn basic wood-working skills, and hand-craft my own decorative holiday wreathes. To make matters worse, they were having a major clearance sale and I decided to go ahead and start my Christmas shopping.
As I made my way through the store, working my way from hand-carrying a few items, to using a store basket, to exchanging that for a cart, I thought about the things that can spark a child’s creativity (and a grown adult’s too apparently). I felt something under my foot as I took a step forward and realized it was a stray children’s book. When I bent down to pick it up and put it back in its place, I realized there was something very familiar about the bright red cover. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but something about the illustrated, brown bear and his green overalls…a missing a button I think…? It was Corduroy, the bear who lives in a department store! Now I remembered the beloved childhood book. Still straining my murky memory for the details, I read the whole story right in the middle of the shopping aisle, page by page, until I reached the end. Yes of course, he gets bought by little girl, Lisa, and they become best friends!
I smiled to myself as I placed it back on the shelf and naturally thought about my own childhood best friend bear, Taylor. My dad gave matching bears to my older sister and I when he returned from a 2-week training exercise in the National Guard. The bears wore Army camouflage, complete with boots and dog tags. Taylor and I were inseparable. I refused to go to sleep until I had him with me and Lord help my parents if he was ever misplaced for a night. Using child logic, I put Taylor and some of my other beloved animals in a pillowcase on my bed, so that if there ever was a fire in our house, I could grab them easily and carry them to safety – an idea that I passed on to my 3-year old nephew, Ethan. He too can’t leave the house without the comfort of his treasured friends, and rather than driving his mother crazy with a constant armload of stuffed animals, I showed him how to carry all of them in one simple, easy to hold pillowcase.
I still have Taylor to this day. Of course, now the stuffing is protruding through the hole in his ears, his boots are long gone, and a wooden shelf is a more suitable home for him than a pillow case by my bed. But he is still in my room, practically loved to pieces, and among my most treasured possessions. I think everyone has at least one childhood toy like that – more than a toy, but a real, true friend. And it helps shape their personality, individuality, and certainly sparks creativity for the rest of their life.