My parents told me they gave him to me as a Christmas present in 1955, in Detroit, Michigan in a two-story flat on Dexter Avenue.
I’ve seen the grainy 8MM movies, but of course, I don’t remember. After all, I was barely a year old, hardly old enough to know what was a “best friend,” let alone that he would be it.
At night, I’d hold him until I fell asleep; his very presence banishing monsters that lived under the bed and the shadow creatures in the closet. When wind against the windows caused the curtains to pulsate and the panes to howl a ghostly, eerie, wail, my little yellow buddy with the dark black eyes and furry body watched over me until the sandman cast his magic upon me. He shared my pillow, his yellow, foam, and fur body with plastic face peering over the blankets to protect me, long after I dozed.
I would drag him from Kevin’s to Joey’s to Victor’s during long vacations and hot muggy afternoons. He’d sit, floppy-necked, across from me on the kitchen table as I’d sip lemonade and draw with crayons. While I did homework, he rested, never complaining, near my pencil jar. And when no one was to be found and there was nothing to do but let my imagination take over, I covered him in aluminum foil, wrapped saran wrap around his head, suspended him from the ceiling light, and pretended he was an astronaut.
“Commander Puppy,” I said into my paper-cup microphone (adding the right amount of voice crackle to increase the realism), “This is Captain Scott. Over. Do you hear me? Over. Come in Commander. Over and out.”
Together, we spent hours; daylight until dark. January through December. Childhood through adolescence.
As my world expanded and I played touch football in the alley with Richard and Mike and the super-nerdy Randy, Puppy waited on my bed for my arrival. To the outside world, I had outgrown him. But having him around, even if I was not, made me stronger. The consistency gave me a history, which made me feel older and wiser – and in some way, a little safer. I didn’t need to see Puppy to have that; I just needed to know he was around.
Rocket ships and football games and coloring books morphed into a whiz-bang whirl of deadlines and assignments, grocery shopping and homework helping, personal responsibilities and compromises. What remains of my tattered, torn, tired friend with the hole in his leg and the loose threads around his neck still sits on my bookcase. I no longer seem to have time for him, but he’s never forgotten me.
In some strange way, he brings a consistency to me from my childhood until today. I lost most of my past in a divorce and via several moves around the state many years ago. Videos of my children and my yearbooks from high school are nowhere to be found. However, I don’t know whether it was circumstance or divine intervention, but I never lost Puppy – and the feeling he brings to this day. Quality. Spirit. A sense of well being that I don’t want to lose.
I might be 61 years old and gray on top but, but we never grow up; we simply become wrinkled kids. Having him around to this day makes my world a little better.
And that can never be a bad thing.