Tag Archives: plushies

The Tale of Trauma Bunny

I never much cared for dolls as a child. I never even had a Barbie. What I had were stuffed animals. That’s what we called them back then, before taxidermy became so trendy. Now, I understand, they’re called “plushies.” My favorite plushies were always rabbits – there was one in my Easter basket every year.

One of the most famous plushies in literature is the Velveteen Rabbit. Its story is the one about a beloved childhood toy that becomes worn and shabby, but wishes for someone to love him enough to make him real. There’s even a song about it by Kathy Mar, which is a real tearjerker. My story is about a stuffed rabbit too, that once was shabby.

My life has been full of beloved plushies. Before my house and most of my belongings were destroyed in a tornado, I had a pirate Winnie the Pooh. I had a Raggedy John Denver doll that a friend made for me (the heart on his chest says, “Far Out”). I had a cat that looks just like a cat I once had. I had an official Vorkosigan Butter Bug hand puppet. A couple of armadillos. Assorted teddy bears and Beanie Babies. And a plush Puss in Boots that makes a sound like a cat coughing up a hairball and says, “I thought we were done doing things the stupid way.” In the voice of Antonio Banderas, no less. Once my husband and I went to a thrift store and pawed through an absolute vat of stuffed toys and found such lesser-known varieties as a camel, a snake, and Thing One. (We never did find Thing Two.)

My husband often buys me plush toys to replenish my supply, so often that I now have quite a start on a new collection, including dogs, cats, a turtle, a walrus, bears, assorted armadillos, a sloth, and an ambiguous creature that I call a pandacoon. But Trauma Bunny is special. 

She was a rescue rabbit. Dan found her at the store where he works, but not in the toy aisle. Rather, the innocent creature was in the pet food aisle, crammed and crushed behind a giant bag of dog food. Naturally, Dan bought her and brought her home to me. After all she had been through, I named her Trauma Bunny and gave her useful work to do – sitting on my printer and guarding my cellphone and headphones. She likes being needed and having a responsible job, in addition to just being cute.

Trauma Bunny is a comfort object, the psychologists would say. Far from being prized possessions of children alone, comfort objects – plush toys, blankets, and other soft, soothing items – have their place among many a grown-up’s life. Wikipedia defines a comfort object as “an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations.” It says nothing about them being for children only.

I also have friends that have collections, some of them quite extensive, of plushies and other comfort objects. One friend, a large, burly ex-cop had a plush bunny named “Sweetie Rabbit.” Another even has a “My First Bacon” plushie that talks, or at least says “I’m bacon” when you squeeze it. (Most of my comfort objects have genders as well as names, but, frankly, I don’t see how to assign gender to bacon.)

Trauma Bunny does give me comfort. I am comforted to know that, even though she had a difficult past and troubling experiences, she found someone who noticed her plight and brought her to me. In a way, we help heal each other.

I don’t know how much healing my friend gets from his plushie bacon, but everyone needs a little comfort object now and then, even if it’s only a breakfast food.

I Want My Blankie!

Linus’s security blanket. Radar O’Reilly’s teddy bear. That kid in Mr. Mom‘s woobie (which seems to be where the term “woobie” was invented). (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSVCQ-NmTac.)

What do all these things have in common?

They’re what psychologists call “comfort objects,” or as Wikipedia defines it, “an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations.”Morgenmuffel

But look again at that list. What’s different about one of the names? Radar O’Reilly is an adult, or at least grown-up enough to be a corporal in the U.S. Army. Some of the characters on the show and in the audience poked fun at him, but most understood – Radar was in a strange and dangerous place and needed a comfort object to remind him of his childhood home in Ottumwah, IA.

And Radar isn’t the only adult who needs a woobie of some sort. Alabama journalist Anna Claire Vollers wrote:

Last year, the hotel chain Travelodge polled about 6,000 people in Great Britain and found 35 percent said they sleep with teddy bears. A surprising 25 percent of men admitted to bringing their teddy bears with them on business trips.

So now I have a confession to make: I own an array of comfort objects and sometimes take them with me on trips. Once I even took a stuffed bunny with me to a sleep study. (Let me be clear: It was not a taxidermied bunny, but what I believe are now called plushies. For taxidermied animals as comfort objects, you should check out The Bloggess.)

My habit started in childhood, when I preferred plushies to Barbies. Every year our Easter baskets contained, in addition to candy and fake grass, a plush bunny. One year I won a plush bunny three-and-a-half feet tall in a raffle. It was wearing a blue and yellow checked dress. My mom found the same fabric and made me a matching one.

Now my collection includes, in addition to bunnies and bears, crocheted armadillos, assorted Beanie Babies (including a crab and a spider), a giraffe, Thing One and Thing Two from The Cat in the Hat, and a Raggedy John Denver doll that a friend made me (the little heart on his chest says “Far Out”).

Nor am I the only one among my circle of friends who treasures assorted comfort objects. Two of my friends have plush animals that could be either husky dogs or gray teddy bears (which they call “huskie bears”). Our friend John had a toy bunny (“Lovie”) to sleep with at home and borrowed a bear my mother had made when he napped at our house after Thanksgiving dinner. My sister had a 12-inch square piece of cloth from her childhood that she named “Tag.” She kept it under her pillow at college. Her roommates teased her unmercifully about it, though really it was a miracle Tag had lasted that long.

One friend even received as a gift a plushie called “My First Bacon.” As I recall, it talked, though I’m not quite sure what talking bacon could say that I would find soothing, except possibly “Eat me.” (Like the cake in Alice in Wonderland. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

But now someone has gotten serious about the therapeutic effects of comfort objects. Wikipedia notes:

Inventor Richard Kopelle created My Therapy Buddy (MTB) in 2002 as a self-described transitional object to benefit “one’s emotional well-being”. The blue creature speaks to you when you squeeze it and says any of a number of phrases that include “everything is going to be alright.”

Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6kSqSzWr0w. It shows a pale blue, bald, pregnant Smurf-like object being cuddled by various people to a background on New Age-type lullabies. One clip even shows it in the mouth of a giant, leering shark, which does not comfort me and does not appear to comfort the shark.

I will stick with my Pirate Winnie-the-Pooh, thanks. Or my plush Puss in Boots that makes a sound like a cat coughing up a hairball and says, “I thought we were done doing things the stupid way.” In the voice of Antonio Banderas, no less.

I guess we all find comfort in our own way, even if some of them seem stupid to others.