Never exactly forgotten, yet long ago having lost their comparatively eminent places, behold the survivors! Do click upon them, for they’d like that, and examine well their worn details.
I cannot escape remarking on the tropes from the Velveteen Rabbit here, that 1) “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” and 2) “It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”.
In general, and probably here as well, I am against the notion that ‘real’ is a meaningful modifier of anything. Real imitation. Real imagination. Real possibility. Get Real! I like a sense of the real which admits everything and excludes nothing, which focuses rather on the way in which things are real. Your dreams are real – real dreams, that is, real in a different way than things you might touch. It is not possessing the quality of reality which distinguishes them, rather the nature of their reality. That said, the notion I think that Margery Williams is getting at, for scrupulous yet ruthless literalists as I can be, is some sort of fullest incarnation: physical, emotional, mental, perhaps even spiritual – standing in a very different place than the number 12 written in an equation, the plastic cap on a water bottle, or even a photograph. It is in this regard that I will share some of what I know about these characters.
Sam the Monkey was bought for me by my Grandmother Alice in Queens Village on Long Island, New York on Jamaica Avenue near the fire station in 1965. I was either late in my second year or early in my third. The crusty gentleman who tended the convenience store while smoking his cigar took the monkey off the wall, away from his brethren, and bestowed him upon me. This was my second doll/toy. The first was a bear named Atlantus, though the circumstances of his becoming mine are beyond the reach of my memory. Atlantus, also known as Atlantus Pantus, who was very much loved, would become a victim of the puppyhood of our first dog, Mandy. She shredded him to bits when I was seven.
Some tale must be told of each. Sam’s is the most formidable. If you zoom in you will notice that one of his eyes is the sort that follows you. This was very scary to me as a tike. So scary, in fact, that whilst still sleeping in a crib that I removed one of them. Much less scary then, for a while at least, until that monster that Nietzsche describes, the minotaur of conscience, gets a whiff of it.
Somewhere around the age of eight I had resolved to get Sam a new eye. Stray eyes were in short supply, however, and I felt averse to calling attention to the whole matter. We did have a young dog, however, perhaps the perfect foil in that she had a taste for stuffed animals. My younger sister had a small yellow and orange stuffed whale. Mysteriously that whale was visited by fatal injuries via the teeth of that beloved dog. A sad matter all around, but one that made a spare eye available! Now you know. The minotaur has compelled me to write this.
Around the same time, first grade I believe, I was not loving the process of education. Handwriting, in particular, was torturous. At the end of the school year I recall throwing my notebooks out the window of the school bus so as not to have to review with my parents the many helpful criticisms they contained. Surprisingly, though, there was a consolation. That very day this gingerbread man, who came to be known as King James, was given to me by my mother. Briefly I imagined that all was right and that the whole school business was a terrible mistake. Sadly, that wasn’t the case but King James stood thereafter as significant consolation in a desolate time.
Things got better. Crabby was supposedly made of dura-plastic and infallible rubber (of course he was plush). Cosmic justice (meaning I had NOTHING to do with it) eventually cost him his eyes. That dog Mandy.
Scrappy I made from a pair of outgrown pajamas. Noteworthy is that inside his head is another head, full on with its own eyes and mouth and nose. Why this design was enacted I do not know, but it seemed a cool feature at the time, illustrating that all may not be as it appears. Scrap’s entertainment value as rather as a jester. If you threw him he would land in the most god-awful poses, suggesting terrible injuries. Unperturbed, however, Scrappy was resiliently happy.
In early adulthood, in the same year I think, two others joined, both found on the street. Not depicted because he went to the beyond place that dogs bring toys to, Pythagoras the stuffed bunny rabbit warranted profound compassion. Found face down in the street, his red eyes were scraped, abraded by the pavement. Tire tracks. He was a wise member of the crew of survivors, for perhaps a decade. Only the other toys know his true story.
The wooden Pinocchio was also found on the street. Being wooden, all presume he has fewer feelings. Despite the bad reputation Pinocchio’s have of being untruthful, however, this one has made no misrepresentations – in fact, he’s made no representations at all. One day, perhaps, or perhaps not.
These are the survivors.