Lost and found
I was browsing through the toy section of UsedOttawa the other day. I have a thing for antique toys and I tend to reach for my credit card if one is calling out to me.
They say that your personality – the way you socialize with people, the very essence of the person you are – is shaped by your earliest childhood memory. Do you think that’s true?
My earliest childhood memory is of losing a favourite toy. I’m not sure how that shaped me as a person, but it was a very traumatic moment (for a four year old!), and one that has stayed with me for many years.
My Raggedy Ann was essentially a blue bean bag with the typical Raggedy Ann face and red yarn hair. Her shifting body and warmth easily conformed to a four-year old hug. And she always hugged me back. She never left my side.
One morning I took her out for a breath of fresh air in a miniature orange metal pram. We lived on a dead-end street where there was virtually no traffic. This might sound odd, but one of the best things about my childhood home was our driveway. It was almost like a runway; a wide expanse of smooth black asphalt with just the right degree of slope. It was ideal for skipping, roller skating and skateboarding tricks.
That fateful day, I stood at the top of the driveway – and for some unfathomable reason – gave the stroller a strong push that sent it careening towards the street. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe I predicted a slow-motion Dukes-of-Hazard-style stunt jump would occur at the bottom? Understandably, the carriage wheels weren’t made to withstand the bump where the driveway met the curb and the whole thing toppled over with a loud metallic clang. The contents flew out in a perfect trajectory.
I ran down the driveway, horrified by what I’d done. What a cruel mother! I searched the blankets for the victim of this terrible crash, wondering whether her injuries were going to be life-threatening, but … Raggedy Ann was nowhere to be found. I searched everywhere but there was no sign of her. She had (obviously) evaporated.
I was inconsolable. My parents helped me look for her. We searched everywhere and questioned the neighbours, but she was never found. My mother later speculated that I’d left her at a grocery store during an outing and we never noticed she was gone. But this was just a guess.
Year later, when I was about twelve, my parents and I came across a lady who made custom toys. I described Raggedy Ann as carefully as I could remember: about *this* big, with a blue bean bag body and white apron. The lady nodded, understanding. I was so excited. I was finally going to have my favourite toy back again!
Raggedy Ann II was ready a few weeks later. I was so disappointed. Everything was wrong; the dimensions, the colour, the clothes. I didn’t like her at all. I felt guilty about it too. It wasn’t her fault she wasn’t lovable.
About five years ago I started looking for my original Raggedy Ann on used toy websites. It took me awhile, but I eventually found one that was in good shape and I bought her.
I remember holding my breath as I opened the box. It was like Christmas. Would she be the same? You know what, she was. She was exactly how I remembered, and quite possibly in better shape than my old one. I felt relieved, but also a little sad. I’m not sure why. Strangely, there’s still a tiny scar deep down in my heart that I cannot mend or properly explain. It sounds silly, but it’s there.
That year she was put away with the Christmas decorations. Every year since then I’ve unpacked her box and put her on display near our tree. And it feels like I’m four all over again.