Dear Readers: Every year, I step away from the Ask Amy column for two weeks in order to work on other writing projects.
My two memoirs, “The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Story of Surprising Second Chances,”(2010, Hachette) and “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home” (2018, Hachette) are available from your favorite bookseller or library.
Today’s (2010) “Best Of” column contains one of my most memorable questions. I’m running the original question and answer, as well as a sample of the lovely and supportive responses I received from readers who were touched by the story of a child’s connection to his stuffed animals.
I’ll be back with fresh Ask Amy columns next week.
Dear Amy: I have a friend who is the father of a 12-year-old son. My friend’s son’s bedroom is filled with stuffed animals. These are not “guy” toys, but pink, yellow, orange, etc., stuffed animals. We have tried to tell the dad that this is not appropriate for a young man, but he just scoffs at us. There are hundreds of these stuffed animals in this child’s room.
What are your thoughts? — Wondering Friend
Dear Wondering: My thoughts are that hundreds of any toy is too much for a child to possess, but it’s not for you to judge the type of toys this child collects. It’s also not for you to judge whether stuffed animals are sufficiently masculine for someone else’s child to play with.
If this dad seeks out your counsel on the quantity and quality of his son’s toys, then go for it. Otherwise, you should keep your views to yourself.
Dear Amy: We have a grandson who, when he was 12, not only had lots of stuffed animals but also carried one around with him everywhere. This drove my husband crazy.
I taught elementary school students for 42 years. I told him to leave the boy alone.
The grandson is now a music teacher and a fine young man. — Barbara
Dear Barbara: “Leave the boy alone” is sage advice for many parents and grandparents — in many different contexts. You are a wise woman. Thank you.
Dear Amy: When I was in high school, the boy I had begun dating handed me a closed paper lunch bag. Shyly, he said he knew I could sew and wondered if I could fix what was in the bag. It was a stuffed panda bear, badly worn.
I was touched by his sentimental attachment to the bear and thought, “This guy will make a great daddy someday.”
Recently we celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. He’s been a kind, loving and gentle husband and father to our two daughters, who are now grown and married.
And the stuffed panda bear? We still have it. — Shirley
Dear Shirley: This is lovely. Thank you.
Dear Amy: I had to hop on the bandwagon and respond to the letter about the 12-year-old boy who had lots of stuffed animals.
I am a 24-year-old woman, and I’ve had a big teddy bear since I was an infant. I had a somewhat rough childhood, and the only constant friend was my bear.
I semi-jokingly tell people that, “he has the smell of my life on him.”
A few years ago, I was on a second or third date with a man and somehow this topic came up. I told him about my bear, and I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head!
He then explained that he has had a bear since he was an infant as well and he kept it in the trunk of his car the whole time he was in college so people wouldn’t make fun of him.
He is now my fiancee, and our bears don’t have to be hidden.
It warms my heart to hear from other people who kept something that others might think is silly close to them through the years. — Teddy-Hugger
Dear Hugger: I love thee testimonials to the stuffed friends who hold the “smell” of our lives. A bear can be a child’s most intimate friend.
Dear Amy: Your discussion about a boy who had a collection of stuffed animals made me smile. Mine was named Muffin. He was a duck that helped me get through law school. — Greg
Dear Greg: Here’s to Muffin, and all the other stuffed or inanimate friends who help their keepers to cope with life’s challenges.