Being in my twenties, I have had many items throughout my lifetime that have come and gone, been the next big thing and then, obsolete the next. After all, I was born and raised as a realist and a Christian, so I learned that material things were of little to no value over time because they would fade away with time, just like me. However, since my childhood, there has been one object that throughout the past 18 years has brought me enjoyment and pleasure in owning it.
Ten years ago, on July 7th, 2001, my family and I were on vacation, navigating the Californian coastline. Along the way, we saw many beautiful things from the Redwood Trees to the Trees of Mystery. We went to many beaches along the coastline, and we drove through a hole in the trunk of a huge Redwood. To sum it up, the vacation had been amazing. On this particular day, we decided to stop in a tourist attraction, a small Danish-themed village by the name of “Solvang.” At the time, I was seven years old and didn’t understand the sophistication, refinement, and flat out awesome nature of “recreational shopping” as I like to put it. So that being said, I saw this town as nothing more but another boring yet colorful town with boring stores filled with boring, adult souvenirs that no child of seven would ever desire to obtain.
We traveled throughout the streets of this little place, looking at store front after store front. Occasionally to my delight, Dad would get Daniel and me a snack from a local vender. We didn’t care if it was chocolate, caramel, raspberry, or any other flavor. Food was food, and eating was a chance to do something, anything. We nibbled on our delicacies as our parents continued the “Oh, look at the craftsmanship of that” or “Wow, don’t you think that Louise would like that china set?” discussions.
The day continued on like this, and though there were many interesting street people about in fancy Danish costumes or interesting tourists to stare at, I was beginning to think the day was a lost cause. As we were headed toward the exit at the other end of the town, my eyes like magnets saw a sign in the distance. My eyes grew wide in shock and delight to see the words “Toy Store” written on it. I begged and pleaded, and my parents finally agreed to take us to this one last store. I rushed to it, my energy and hope returning.
We entered and the place was huge, being about the size of two of the regular stores on the other streets towards the beginning of the town. Daniel and I were like kids in a candy store. We quickly looked from section to section, searching for something to keep us entertained for the remainder of this trip. I saw many interesting things, including a display boasting that you could simply grab a small, blue velvet bag and pick your choice of shiny rocks in the container to fill in the bag all for around four bucks. I had enough money for that if I wanted it, but I decided to look some more as I pondered on whether to get it.
As I continued to walk around, I walked into the other side of the story which was darker in lighting but filled with stuffed animals. It had a lace canopy draped over a main display with many different plush dolls. Then, my eyes fell upon one specific stuffed creature, and I was in love at first sight. It was a fluffy white and pink stuffed cat with a beaded crown, bracelet, and a gold trimmed rhinestone encrusted set of butterfly wings attached to its back. I quickly picked the fluffy feline up, inspecting it closely. I then turned to the attached tag, and opened it to reveal a price sticker. I nearly dropped the thing in shock when I discovered this little 8” stuffed cat was a whopping fifteen dollars. Now if I looked at this price today, I’d probably shrug it off and cough up the cash no problem, but when I was a seven year old girl, making only one dollar a week allowance, fifteen dollars meant so much more to me.
Within my Barbie© wallet was a whole eighteen dollars that I had been saving for months before the vacation. Even at a young age, I valued the dollar much differently than most children my age. My parents didn’t just hand me toys and gifts on a silver platter like it was their obligation in life. When my parents chose to spoil me with a surprise toy or treat, I was grateful and thanked them continuously. So, it was not surprising that I found it hard trying decided to part with almost all my vacation savings on one simple toy. I considered going back to the shiny rocks and paying for those instead. Finally, fed up, I went to my father, the one who made me the realist I am today, and asked for his advice on which item I should spend my hard earned cash on. He said it was my choice since it was my money but pointed out a very profound thing to the seven old me. He reminded me with a smile that I couldn’t snuggle and sleep with a bag of shiny rocks.
I realized he was absolutely right, so I took my stuffed kitty to the register and forked up the Washington’s for it. The cat had came with a name, but at my age, I found it far too hard to pronounce, so partially inspired from my love for “Emily Elizabeth” from the child television and book series Clifford the Big Red Dog, I named my new friend “Elizabeth Helen.”
Nearly 20 years later, I still have this plush cat. Though, she shows obvious signs of extensive love-treatment with missing or mismatched rhinestones, tears in the wings, and faded pigment in the fur. She has been with me through the death of my grandfather, every flu and cold, every indoor movie night with Mom, every broken heart, and most importantly every happy memory in my life. I’ve had her so long that I’ve come to think of her as a guardian angel in plush form. I even went on to write forty-five fantasy short stories in a children series about The Adventures of Elizabeth Helen. I know she is just a stuffed animal and with time, will eventually fade away like every other worldly object on this earth, but I will love and cherish my guardian angel till the day God decides to take her back from me.