It sounds like something you’d call a rabbit or a guinea pig, but in our house, Fluffy is a teddy bear. Or at least he was. Now he doesn’t look much like anything. Being rolled on, chewed on and snotted on for most of your life will do that to you.
These days, Fluffy sits forgotten on the shelf in my seven year old son Hayden’s room. But oh how different it was just a few years ago, when Hayden was a toddler and Fluffy was the centre of his universe.
Long ago – before his nose was chewed off and his pristine white fur turned all manky brown – Fluffy started life as one of those tacky red and white Valentine’s Day bears, complete with three satin hearts stitched to his tummy. He was given to Hayden by his very thrifty grand-dad, who probably scored Fluffy for fifty cents in the discount bin of his local op shop.
Had I known then what Fluffy’s eventual worth would be, I’d have taken out insurance and stored him in a safe.
From the moment Hayden met Fluffy, it was love at first sight. They were inseparable, and I MEAN inseparable. Hayden depended on Fluffy to help him sleep. If Fluffy wasn’t being dragged through puddles or buried up to his eyeballs in sand, he was being suffocated in cuddles that just about squeezed the life (and the stuffing) out of him.
So attached was Hayden to his new friend, he screamed the house down whenever my husband Kevin or I tried to give Fluffy a much-needed wash.
When we booked a holiday to the Gold Coast, it was only natural that Fluffy came with us. Somehow we managed to convince Hayden it was better that Fluffy travel in our suitcase, lest we lose him in transit, God forbid.
Each day, Hayden fed Fluffy breakfast, shovelling Vegemite toast into his mouth. Fluffy even learnt to swim in the hotel pool. In between, he survived being vomited on, driven over and wedged under the bar fridge. Still, he had pretty darn good holiday. For a bear.
So when we all arrived home tired and irritable after a delayed plane trip and mid-air poo emergency, little did we realise all hell was about to break loose.
As I unzipped our suitcase to start unpacking, my heart suddenly froze. I turned to Kevin.
“Did you pack Fluffy?”
He stared at me blankly. “No. I thought you did.”
My immediate reaction was to burst into tears. How could I possibly explain to my little boy that his best friend in the world had accidentally been left behind?
Hayden was inconsolable when we broke the news. He sobbed. He howled. He broke my heart. I felt like the worst mother in the world.
As wails of “Faaaaar-feeeeeee!” filled the house, Kevin phoned the hotel where we’d stayed, begging staff to check our room and see if Fluffy was still in residence.
Miracle of all miracles – he was. The cleaners had found him – in all his grotty glory – under the couch in our room.
If the hotel receptionist thought we were nuts paying a small fortune to have Fluffy mailed back to us via Registered Post, she didn’t say so. But the truth is, we’d have paid whatever it took, without even blinking an eye. Ridiculous as it sounds, Fluffy – to us – was priceless.
The days we waited until Fluffy came home were the longest of my life. Despite all my efforts to tempt Hayden with newer, bigger, fluffier bears and hunting all over town for one that remotely resembled Fluffy, our son wasn’t having a bar of it.
To be perfectly frank, it was a horrible, heart-wrenching time and I wonder to this day how we survived it. And all this over a smelly old stuffed animal!
The day Fluffy arrived was like Christmas, only better. There, inside a Postpak, was Hayden’s best friend – filthy as ever -unceremoniously dumped in a black plastic bin liner.
The moral of this story? If your child falls in love with a stuffed toy, buy another identical one if you can. Better still, buy three. That way you’ll always have a back up, avoiding any repeat of the Great Fluffy Debacle of 2007.
Today, Hayden asked us for a dog …