When I was little, seven or eight, or so, and getting ready for bed I would pile all my soft toys onto my bed, panicking if anyone was left out.
I had a bedspread covered in tiny pale blue and turquoise roses with dark blue highlights and delicate leaves of the palest green. It had a frill around the edge with turquoise polka dots and bouquets of the roses dotted here and there. There was a matching valance, a pillow in the shape of a love heart and a tablecloth for my round bedside table.
Each night I would arrange all my stuffed animals on my bed. My big orange dog with a red and black cap on its head being in charge of them all. I’d had that dog since we lived in America when I was very small and Mum would tell me how I’d sit on him and implore him to ‘GIDDYUP!’. His back was well worn, threadbare even and a small hole was starting to open up. I could pull roughly cut cubes of foam from his belly if I so wanted, but would be wracked with grief and guilt at hurting him that I would quickly shove them back in, running my hand over the hole so as to pretend it wasn’t there and he was going to be alright.
I had a pink elephant, Ellie, that I had seen instantly in a sea of soft toys at our school fete and begged Mum to buy for me. She had chuckled and looked at me with that face mothers get and said, ‘but you’re too old for stuffed toys.’ She bought it for me all the same. I had dressed her in a pink tutu I had worn years earlier during my ill-fated and short-lived foray into the world of dance. I adored her. Her eyes had always said to me, ‘I understand’.
There were myriad other creatures that I have long since forgotten, but I remember them covering the bottom third of my bed and then about the same along the wall up to my pillow, leaving me a slither of bed to lie in for the night.
Pride of place went to Ted, my one-eyed teddy bear that I had since birth. He was one-eyed because during one particularly violent tantrum (of which I was renown) I had pulled his eye out of his head. I have recollections of when I did that but no idea my age. I remember the feeling of just how hard it was to pull it out, the stinging in my fingers as the metal loop behind the glass eye dug in while the string holding it in place refused to give and finally the “puh” as it did. And then the pain in my heart at what I had done. Mum never sewed his eye back on.
I was convinced that come midnight all the toys in my room would come to life and for tea parties and dancing and to stroke my hair while I slept. Every night I would will myself to wake up and see it for myself but I never did.
Then morning would come and my bedfellows would be strewn across the floor, clear evidence of their penchant for wild parties and that yet again I had missed it. Sometimes Ted would be on the floor and I would panic that he’d been cold, left out or unable to climb back up once the dancing was done. I’d scoop him up, give him a cuddle one last time before the day truly began and place him gently on my pillow.