I like cute things. Maybe that is part of the reason why I like children. As an adult I still have a teddy bear. My original teddy bear - Theodore Edward Bear - still guards my property in Canada, but I have another in Tokyo. One small creature is here at my fingertips, on my computer desk. Another, much larger one, sits by my pillow. Sometimes it even becomes my pillow on those humid summer nights when I’m rolling around searching for a cool patch of mattress. I call her Vicky because she seems about the size of a girl I knew in high school by that name. (She’s now an economics professor - the girl, not the bear.) No one can replace Theodore Edward Bear, but my possession of proxies makes life happier.
Now recently has come a time in my family’s life here when we feel the need to dispose some of the children’s old playthings - a large accumulation of stuff in the apartment that is cluttering up the place, collecting dust, and which no one uses anymore. My daughter is in university and my son in junior high school and they long ago stopped playing with certain toys. So the way seems clear to disposing in the trash of old lego bricks, toy cars, guns and swords, balls, myriad plastic gewgaws, etc. My daughter’s old doll house - the best Christmas present ever - is bound for the little girl who lives downstairs, not for the trash. Even I have a collection of things that I can dispose of - a menagerie of life-like plastic animals and foods that I used as aids in children’s English classes. Since I no longer teach such classes, have not done for years, and haven’t used the material my wife is demanding a purge. Harping is more like it. (She wants me to dispose of books as well, but that’s not going to happen. Not while I’m aliveand have breath in my body, anyway.)
I find it relatively easy to throw out old toys. A little sad because of the memories and emotional investment in them, but I can do it nonetheless. I do it gradually, a little bit at a time with each garbage day. But so far I draw the line at throwing out old stuffed animals in the trash. They are so cute! They were so loved that they are like persons to me, and throwing them out is like murder. Even if I haven’t seen or picked up a stuffed animal at home in years, the moment I do I feel an attraction and bond with it that no plastic toy enjoys. If they are my children’s old stuffed animals, which they mostly are, then handling them reminds me of the love and joy in their faces when they did play with them in the past. They are exceedingly lucid memories. At the very least I cannot do anything with them without a family negotiation to smooth the way. This appeal of cuteness is very human. It’s something that Japanese culture develops to a nauseating extreme - cute cartoons, cute mascots, cute high school girl singing groups (whose visual appeal compensates for the fact that they can’t sing worth a damn).
Over the years in the neighborhood I have occasionally seen garbage bags full of other people’s discarded stuffed animals sitting at the curbside for garbage pick up, and I feel so sorry for them it practically hurts. It’s like a bag full of babies, or memories and of love that is being thrown out. The death of loved ones. A monumental tragedy. I personally do not want to salvage and rescue an old, stained bear, but there must be a better way of dealing with old stuffed animals.