Recently I saw the trailer for the upcoming film 'Christopher Robin' in which the little boy from well known and loved children's franchise Winnie the Pooh grows up to become a not so carefree adult, and in his state of disconnectedness from the simple joys of life, finds himself visited by an old friend who turns out to not be quite as imaginary as he thought. Having been exposed to clumsy yellow bear in early in my childhood, it made me insanely happy because in rather meta fashion, the movie trailer helped me reconnect to happier, simpler times in my childhood. I almost began to imagine my childhood stuffed animals coming to my rescue, bringing joy at a time when I struggle to hold up under the demands, stress, and hard reality of adult life. The fantasizing didn't last long however as I came to a somewhat humorous conclusion: I probably don't want my stuffed animals to come to life in Toy Story fashion at all.
You see, my brother and I owned a variety of small stuffed bear toys that were each about the size of your average smartphone which we had been collecting from McDonald's happy meals (on the rare-ish occasions that we did go), and each of these stuffed toys had distinct personalities that we had dreamed up. These personalities would manifest themselves whenever the two of us would play together and perform "bear shows" in which we would animate them with our hands and speak on their behalf, sending them on innumerable wild adventures.
Although it's been at least ten years, I still recall many of the characters, each who received their own names based on their design. There was MacDonald bear who was the self-elected leader of the gang, largely because he was by far the most sane and typically acted as the so called 'straight' (no relation to the sexual orientation) man in an old comedy movie. There was also Lady Bear (she was pink and yellow) who was the fiance of MacDonald bear, whose name was as plain as her unremarkable generic female persona, and who always announced her intention of becoming formally married to MacDonald bear without ever following though with it.
There was American bear (white with red and blue stars) who was one of the most active and tended to totally involve himself in whatever the other bears were doing at a moments notice, and contrary to his name, lacked any real sense of patriotism. Robber bear (black and white with a red tie, middle row) and chocolate bear (brown with a red ribbon) were mostly similar in just being goofy and were both either main actors in an adventure or else were unwilling victims of such. There was Party Hat (red bear with a hat, middle row) who besides having one of the more unique names, was also the most popular among his peers, and whose signature hat inspired many theories as to whether it was merely a hat or whether it was a biological part of his anatomy (Party Hat himself wasn't too sure oddly enough).
At some point Party Hat's name changed to Hard Back after my mom washed him one night and tried to dry him over a lamp that caused a number of plastic beads in his back to fuse together forming a solid mass, which for Hard Back was both a deformity and a blessing because his back then became a shield that was immune to any attack. Light blue bear was a likable fellow, in some ways almost as sane and rational as MacDonald bear, except with a paranormal side to him. Light blue bear would at times withdraw by himself to a uninhabited island where his face would contort to produce an astonishingly large mouth, becoming a mysterious monster who would stalk and eat whole anyone who set foot on his island.
Red bear (who also wore a hat, bottom row) and fuzzy bear (purple bear on the bottom row) were very similar in that they were dim witted and slow, and whose machinations rather than being crazy like everyone else's were considered stupid by the other bears (but they tried their best to keep up). The Robber bear's brother (same red tie with black and white fur, he never got his own title) while generally considered fairly dumb like Red and Fuzzy bear, was well liked by the other bears, and was heartily celebrated at his return following an incident in which I accident got chewing gum all over him one night (he sat in the family freezer for a number of months until the gum was finally removed).
Banker bear (light green) as his name suggests had a knack for anything financial, and by extension anything that adults had to worry about. He tended to be considered dull and uninteresting by the other bears, and remained in a near constant state of being flustered (likely due to the other bears' antics). Lucky bear (dark green) contrary to his name was anything but lucky, as he was almost always the victim of the other bears' adventures or antics while wishing to be left alone. Sadly I've forgotten the role of the pink bear, but I can guess that it was probably female and as such was probably there to provide competition for Lady Bear. Lastly there was Mexican bear who has since been lost (Trump sent him back hahaha...), who was extremely reckless and was involved in getting the whole group killed multiple times (he was a terrible driver).
There are more of the little stuffed bears that are in my possession today that if I haven't forgotten them, they probably just never made the cut.
The problem? Weeell, let's just say that there's a lot of parents that would have opted to have us taken to child psychologists for mental evaluation (you can probably tell just from the paragraphs above). With only a few exceptions, every stuffed bear typically had the personality of Rick from 'Rick and Morty' except minus the genius part, with far more homicidal tendencies, and constant influence of serious mind altering drugs. Almost every imaginative episode featured at least one bear being slaughtered or eaten alive, severe alcoholism, and whatever our tender young minds considered debauchery.
One such playtime had us pretending that the bears were conducting a contest to see who had the largest butt, with one bear who had been forced to participate revealing that his butt cheeks were no larger than mosquito bites, and the winner arriving to the contest with the two halves of his butt FILLING AN ENTIRE SEMITRAILER. That along with sword fights, guns battles, drunken brawls, arson, mooning, fiery car crashes, crotch kicking, inane banter, bank robberies, madcap escapades around the house, you get the idea.
If my stuffed animals came to life they'd probably be more like 'Ted' except small and there's a whole lot more of them. More than likely they'd get into trouble and I'd be imprisoned for it ("I swear officer it was the bears!!"). And yet I loved those sick freaks, and still do today (don't worry, my brother and I are the nicest, most normal people ever).
I discovered in writing this MyTake that thinking about them and holding them bring me a kind of refreshing calmness that I so badly need at a time of my life that's filled with taxes, sleep deprivation, taxes (see what I mean?), work, deadlines, classes, stress, difficult relationships, and emotional needs.
My stuffed bears might burn the house down if they were alive, but they might just break me out of the prison that adult life has me in.
PS. I did buy my old stuffed playmates an arsenal of key chain swords and axes a while back, so they're armed to the teeth.