The Toy Tiger

This is Baby Tiger. My daughter named her shortly after learning to talk.

I have a certain mania about hoarding old toys. My toys. My children’s toys. Other toys like abandoned toys from Goodwill and ReSale stores and liquidation toys from the bargain bins in Walmart and Toys-R-Us.

You see, the dependence on the importance in my life of people who are not real began with my own perceptions when the lights first went on in my little attic. Yes, my parents and my grandparents were real people. And I sometimes admitted, when forced, that my little sister was too. But so was Tagger, my own stuffed toy tiger.

This is not Tagger. This is a rare Stieff collectible. Tagger was loved to pieces.

I definitely treated him as my best friend and greatest confidant. I told him my troubles, and he protected me from monsters in bed at night. He often was included when I played with my sisters and their dolls. He was wise and brave and caring, and he talked with a voice that sounded very much like mine. In fact, I often think he was such a part of me that, when I no longer needed him in bed with me to help me sleep, I internalized him and he became a part of me. He did not meet his physical end until my parents had to leave Iowa and move to Texas while I was in grad school. What my sister did with his physical form, I really never wanted her to tell me. The house had to be cleaned out, and stuffed toys from the attic did not fair well.

Baby Tiger came into our lives in October of 1995.

I had almost given up ever being married and having a family when, at the age of 37, I finally fell in love, and then had a family, first of two, and then of three by the end of 1995. On the day my oldest son was born, as the doctor had told me to go home and get some sleep, I went to Walmart and bought a toy tiger. He was not orange like my Tagger, but white. He was about the same size as Tagger, and significantly larger than my infant son. Truthfully, neither number one son or number two son actually played with him. They slept with him and used him as a pillow, but they never even gave him a name. It was my daughter, my youngest child, who took him over and made him into a her. She named her Baby Tiger, loved her, talked to her, carried her around everywhere, and miraculously never loved her to pieces to the point that we don’t still have her 24 years later. The photos of her prove the miracle.

I am not Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes fame. But I do understand the importance of toy tigers. They help to make you who you are. And while they are technically not real people, technically you could argue, “Yes, they are too real!” and argue it very loudly. Of course, people will think you are a crazy fool if you do. But I doubt that changes anybody’s mind about Mickey.

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