A chest full of stuffed toys and memories

Sunday, December 16, 2001

If you have an old dresser or chest of drawers you are about to discard, here's something you can do with it for Christmas, if you have the time: Paint it, if you wish, in Christmasy colors. Pull the drawers slightly out, beginning at the bottom and stairstepping them up to the top. Into these partially opened drawers put anything you like -- dolls, stuffed toys, Christmas ornaments, peppermint canes, sprigs of holly and evergreens, or all of the above.

I have such a small chest. It is painted antique green and has five drawers.

Over the years, I have been given a great number of stuffed animal toys of various sizes. There are raccoons, Christmas mice, many Teddy bears and a bright-eyed monkey. I call it my Christmas memory chest.

Pearl Scully made the monkey for me when the era of making such monkeys out of men-sized socks was at its height. The socks were a brownish tweed with white knees. Across the middle of the heel was a red stripe. The socks were stuffed and so formed that the heels made the face and also the derriere. Stuffed arms, legs and an exceptionally long tail were attached.

The eyes of this monkey are the focal point, made of faceted jut buttons. Where did Pearl get them? Off of one of her pretty dresses?

These animals look as if they have just popped out for the Christmas season. Nestled between them are a few twigs of spruce and some miniature glistening baubles.

In addition to Pearl's monkey, I have fond memories of all the other gifts. A bear with a train engineer's cap and overalls was a gift from R.T. Hughes who, at the time, was an engineer for the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad. Many of the other bears were gifts from Gladys, his wife. Snuggles is there and Winnie the Pooh, too.

When "The Deep Forest Award" was published, dedicated to granddaughter Lauren, she liked the raccoon characters so much she gave me a real hair-covered stuffed 'coon, complete with whiskers and a many-ringed tail. This real looking stuffed toy is sprawled on the floor at the foot of the chest. He has a sprig of holly behind one hear.

On both sides of the chest, standing tall among spruce greenery, are two other bears. One is a fuzzy, bright red bear. He is holding my favorite Christmas card from Thomza. The other is a green calico bear with red buttons for eyes and red ears. This was made by my sister, Lillian. Lillian could not resist buying yards of printed fabric, whether or not she planned to use it. We marveled at her collection and teased her about starting a fabric store. Eventually, all the fabric was made into these big stuffed bears. She supplied gift stores in her area with them. Madge Limbaugh took a fancy to one of them called Buttons. The fabric was printed with a variety of buttons.

In later days, all kinds of fuzzy bears have come from Steve and Viney. A great big bear, richly dressed, stands atop the chest, a gift from granddaughter Ellie. This bear has golden jewelry, a decorated tam and a petticoat. She is the queen, reigning over all others. But, like a court jester, there is that sparkling-eyed monkey, seeming to grin at aristocracy.

One bear that is missing is big Panda of Steve's youth. When Steve had the measles, he, without my knowledge, took a red crayon and gave Panda the measles too!

Later on, when nephew had the measles, he took such a longing for the measly Panda we gave Panda to him. Panda's whereabouts are now unknown. Maybe the measles got him. But a tiny panda is in the Christmas party in memory.

I stand back and look at the animals' coming out party and feel a rich glow of memories. And I marvel that, among all the collection there is not one squirrel. No cat either, nor dog. Well, Santa is coming.

REJOICE!

Jean Bell Mosley is an author and longtime resident of Cape Girardeau.

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