When I was about three years old I had to go to the Ear, Nose and Throat hospital to have grommets put in. I don’t know all the technicalities, but basically grommets are teeny tiny cotton-reel looking things that get put into the ear canal. They were meant to fix my hearing somehow. I don’t really understand how, but that is what they were for.
Before I went in to the hospital my parents and brother (brothers? I’m not sure if the younger one was around at the time…) gave me a present. I remember the gift bag it came in – it had a picture of a teddy bear in a field of poppies. I think I kept the gift bag for years. Actually it may still be with my things back in England.
The present itself was a cuddly sheep with a bow-tie. I named him Woolly. Woolly quickly became my favourite cuddly toy. I wouldn’t sleep without him. I took him most places with me and was careful to make sure he didn’t get damaged or dirty.
He did get damaged once or twice. I think one time he got pulled and torn during an argument with one of my brothers. Another time we were in the car just about to leave my aunt’s after a holiday. I had Woolly on my lap and looked down to see his head hanging off. I have no idea how that happened, but I remember bursting into tears.
Luckily my mum is great at sewing and any time Woolly got damaged she was able to get him fixed up again. Even now (yes, I still have him!) I can’t see where he was broken. One of his arms sits slightly oddly but that’s only noticeable from up close.
Woolly continued to be my companion even as I grew up. I was never ashamed to have a cuddly toy. If I was upset he was a comfort. It felt strange to go to sleep without him with me. I guess it became a habit after so many years. He continued to be with me during my teenage years, and even went to university with me for the brief time I was there.
Nowadays Woolly lives on my bedside table. He doesn’t get as much attention as he did in the past – now I have a husband to cuddle, so poor Woolly gets neglected most of the time. Sometimes he still cuddles me – if I’m having a particularly bad day and need extra comfort. When Maisi died, for example.
I think everyone should have a cuddly toy they can love. Whether it’s a bear, a sheep, a frog, whatever. Cuddly toys are great! They don’t judge you. They don’t leave you. They don’t lie to you or laugh at you. They just are. They can be whatever you want them to be, whether it’s a comforting cuddle or something to throw across the room in your frustration.
A cuddly toy is one of the best presents you can give a child. Admittedly most children end up with a million and one cuddly toys, but the right cuddly toy can be a lifelong companion and support.
And now I sound like I’m trying to sell toys. I’m not.
I would be devastated if Woolly was lost or broken. Yes he is just a toy, but he has been with me for so long – about 21 years! – and has been a part of my life in so many ways that to lose him would be like losing a close friend. I hope I will have him for many years to come. And I look forward to helping my future children find their own cuddly companions.
Did you have a favourite cuddly toy during your childhood? Do you still have it?