"Holding Tight to Childhood" by Sherry Boas (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2017 Sherry Boas. All rights reserved.

Dear Mom,

In case you are wondering if the little things you did made a difference, let me assure you. They did. And they still do. See this picture? You’ll remember, I’m sure. Those stuffed animals are the ones you made me when I was four years old. I just snapped this picture the other day. The long-eared dog with the big red nose -- that’s Cleo. He was and still is my favorite inanimate object. In fact, when my childhood friend and I reconnected recently, she asked me about him. She remembers him well. That should remind you what a big part of my life he was.

I remember the first day I laid eyes on Cleo. I came home from kindergarten and found, sitting on my bed, that marvelous canine and that brown hairy bear, both with silken red bows tied around their necks. I knew right away, the dog would be called Cleo. He was named after a storybook you always read to me about a basset hound dressing up for a photo shoot. From the moment I picked him up and hugged him and felt the love coming right back to me, I knew Cleo and I were going to be inseparable. As you know, Mom, I’m turning fifty this year, and yes, Cleo would still be the first non-living thing I would grab if the house were on fire. (The Ibanez guitar I found under the Christmas tree when I was 12 would be the second.)

Over the years, Cleo’s red eyes have dulled and his beautiful golden blond fur has matted into a dingy unimpressive beige. I had many, many stuffed animals, back in the day when we called them “stuffed animals” and not “plush toys.” None of them endured like Cleo. Unlike most of my belongings, Cleo made it through all the many moves, from college apartment to town home, to studio apartment, to guest house to starter home to house to house to other house, and through every heartache, illness, failure, comeback, disappointment, hopeful longing, aftermath and outcome of every good and bad thing that befalls a person’s journey through this unpredictable, crazy world. I don’t know if it makes sense to say that Cleo is partly responsible for my resilience. But he represents, to me, the unconditional, ubiquitous love that pervaded my childhood – a love I never questioned, not for one minute. And every time I pick him up, I am able to feel it once again.

So, yes, the little things you did, Mom, back then and to some extent, even yesterday, do matter. But mostly it was the things you did back then. Back then was when I was forming a picture of the world and the people in it. Is there kindness? Is there redemption? Is there love beyond all measure? Is it a place where someone threads a needle while you are at school, and stitch by stitch, creates something soft for you to love?

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The brown horse in the photo came a little later, as did the little red dog, made from the remnants of Cleo’s fabric. I’m sure you remember all this, Mom, probably even better than I do. They were your hands that made them and it was your heart that, no doubt, envisioned that all these furry creatures that emerged from your sewing machine and your imagination were destined to become participants in the game my childhood best friend and I called “Animals Talk.”

I have told my little John about that game. He also has a vast collection of plush friends, all store-bought because I, unfortunately, did not inherit the gift of sewing. There’s Baby Ruff, Little Sniff, Snow Loaf, Rocky, Foxy, Curly and Fog Snow. My little boy asks me to play the game with him. He calls it “Animals that Talk.” It’s a little different from what it used to be, but I am happy to play it with him. I figure someday he will remember that his mom loved his little plush friends right along with him, primarily because he loved them first. And maybe he will see the world as a place that is good and soft. And if someday it gets rough, he will remember me and Animals that Talk and he will hold onto the hope that love endures all things.

Copyright 2017 Sherry Boas