I still sleep with a stuffed animal.
He’s an adorable, well-kept and not-too-soft but not-too-firm white bear, about 12 inches long from head to toe. He has a disproportionately large head, black circles for a nose, ears and paws, and black caterpillar-shaped eyes that seem both kind and sort of absent. His legs bend forward at the hips and his arms open gently with a little pressure. The tops of his feet and nose have worn away slightly, revealing the beige knitted pattern beneath his fur.
He’s 27 and a half years old. I know, because I got him as a “we-still-love-you-but-you’re-no-longer-our-only-child” gift when my middle sister was born. She got Bun Bun around the same time—a floppy pink rabbit that barely survived toddlerhood.
My bear doesn’t have a name; just a gender. I think he made it through the tough years because I never played with him or dragged him down store aisles or up trees—I just tucked him into the triangle of my chest and upper arms each night and slept soundly.
A few days ago, my mom shared an article with my sisters and me titled A Firm Grasp on Comfort. In it, Dr. Barbara Howard, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Johns Hopkins, posits that as many as 25 percent of young women going off to college take their childhood comfort objects with them. At 18, I was one of those 25 percent. At 30, I’m guessing the percentage of us has dwindled significantly, especially since many of my peers are giving comfort objects to children of their own now.
Although I don’t travel with the bear (he just looks so sad when I try to squish and cram him into luggage), I’ve grown seriously accustomed to him. In Australia, I bunched a travel pillow into his general shape and snuggled it into my shoulder every night. On the occasions when I don’t have a travel pillow, I usually roll up a sweatshirt instead.
It’s unclear to me whether this is out of habit, ergonomics or nostalgia, but the fact is that I just sleep better with my arms around something.
So, I’m curious. How many of us are still out there, hugging stuffed animals and sneaking peeks at ragged silk blankets? (Blanket people—even though I am not one of you, I think we’re part of the same category here.) I’d love to read your comments if you have them.