Friday, December 30, 2005

A boy and his tiger

Okay, back before the image of Calvin peeing on stuff became the redneck family crest, I really liked Calvin and Hobbes. I had a pretty outrageous imagination as a kid, so I loved watching the world this little boy created with his fuzzy friend who, to the rest of the world at least, was merely a stuffed toy. His imagination tinged with cynicism reminded me of, well—me!

Up to now, though, our little man hasn’t shown much interest in stuffed animals, except for Lambie, his nightly companion whose once-white ears are now black with love-grime. Lambie is a true lovey, though—not so much a toy per se; I rather think the D-unit sees her as an extension of himself.

And then the little fella went and met his first stuffed tiger last week and the whole world changed. Daddymatic’s sister, the formidable Aunt Katie, is quite the collector of stuffed animals and is probably the main reason The Disney Store has been able to open so many new locations. She gets a stuffed Simba every year to replace last year’s model, which has had its head sniffed so much that it no longer sports any fur on its head. Simba, however, is the only one of her legion of stuffed animals that she actually plays/sleeps with, and so it came to be that Shere Khan, the tiger from the Jungle Book, was relegated to the guest room, which has become the overflow lot for parking stuffed critters that won’t fit into Katie’s room.

Well, Heavy D took one look at that tiger and shrieked with delight. Here was a soft, cuddly kitty who a) didn’t run away when D pulled its tail b) let him slob all over its fur and c) didn’t mind being slammed on the floor and having a large baby’s head rammed into its gut. A true find indeed. For three days, the D-unit frolicked with Shere Khan, dragged him all over the family room and cuddled with him any chance he could get. Gramma and Granddaddy managed to convince Aunt Katie that it might be okay to let Nephew D ‘borrow’ her tiger for a little while (Katie’s catalogic memory is kept busy keep track of all her stuff, so despite the fact that she never actually played with Shere Khan, she can tell you when he was bought, how much she paid for him and the other locations in the house he has been stored.) and so it is that the terror of the jungle Himself now lives with us and makes our baby smile and coo.

Which I’m thinking is a good thing. I don’t know if this attachment is just temporary or will evolve into a complicated relationship whose tenderness and devotion will be the yardstick against which all future relationships are measured. I don’t know if the D-unit and SK will have the good times that, say, my childhood bear-friend Barney and I had, but one can hope. I just know that sometimes a little boy needs a tiger.