For some reason, I lay awake last night thinking about toys. Do you have any toys or “comfort objects” from childhood that are still important to you?
I have my Hambugins (my name for my ancient, decrepit doll which was a “Baby Huggums”) and Cocoa, my stuffed bear.
My sister has a Blankee which she still sleeps with, to this day.
I started making a list of famous examples of adults with their toys:
1. The most haunting loss of a doll — in On the Banks of Plum Creek, when Ma gives Laura’s beloved Charlotte to a bratty neighbor. Ma never did apologize to my satisfaction, though fortunately Laura did get Charlotte back. [Does anyone know if there’s basis for Charlotte and this story in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s real life?]
2. The Toy Story movies, of course — Toy Story Three! Oh my gosh. The fate of Andy’s toys.
3. Understood Betsy — old Aunt Abigail and her doll, Deborah. “You could tell by the way she spoke, by the way she touched Deborah, by the way she looked at her, that she had loved the doll dearly, and maybe still did, a little.”
4. Brideshead Revisisted — who can forget Sebastian Flyte’s teddy bear, Aloysius?
What are some other prominent examples that I’ve overlooked?
For my whole life, I’ve been fascinated by people’s relationships to objects. I discuss this at some length in Happier at Home, and in a very different way, in my odd little book Profane Waste (what a joy it was to write that book).
I agree with Elaine Scarry, who wrote, in The Body in Pain:
“Perhaps no one who attends closely to artifacts is wholly free of the suspicion that they are, though not animate, not quite inanimate.”
And Adam Smith, who observed in The Theory of Moral Sentiments:
“We conceive…a sort of gratitude for those inanimated objects, which have been the causes of great or frequent pleasure to us. The sailor, who, as soon as he got ashore, should mend [build] his fire with the plank upon which he had just escaped from a shipwreck, would seem to be guilty of an unnatural action. We should expect that he would rather preserve it with care and affection, as a monument that was, in some measure, dear to him.”
My Hambugins is part of myself.
Do you feel that way about any old toy or artifact from your childhood? I used to wonder whether I should bother to keep these things around, but I’ve come to realize that such possessions (within reason) have an important role to play in a happy life.
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Nomadic Lass.