Sophie looked at me with her big black eyes as I took hold of her neck. Her face seemed to say “please, don’t let it end this way”. But my mind was made up. She had been essential to our family but she now had outlived her use. Into the bin bag she went. She probably ended up at the landfill. We didn’t even recycle her or donate her, not with all the bitemarks and historic spittle.
The demise of Sophie the teething giraffe was part of a calculated cull of toys that my wife and I carried out recently. Previously our playroom was grotesquely overstocked. If its inhabitants came magically to life like they do in the Toy Story films then the room would be like a sprawling slum, tote-box tenements rising and tottering from the floor. All the crash and bash of Victoria Station at rush hour, a thousand tiny dinosaurs and Playmobil figurines stampeding to the entrance of the Happyland line, treading on each other and calling each other wankers.
So we decided to carry out an audit of the toys that had become useless to us. Most of which were the unworkable foam bits that come attached to CBeebies magazines. Seriously, they should fix actual litter to the covers and save us all the bother of attempting to play with it.
It occurs to me that this kind of operation will become more difficult in the future, when the toys are bigger and more animate, and our children’s (and my) attachments to them are firmer. When I say this I am mainly thinking about Graham.
Graham came to us from Costco. Graham is a ludicrous outsized teddy bear with a similar stout stature to a rugby prop forward or Lou Carpenter. I am ashamed to say that at first I mocked him. He used to just lie there looking like the lifeless body of Bungle from Rainbow. A big silly giant floundering about among all the normal-sized toys.
In the weeks after his arrival I got to know Graham and discover what Graham was all about. One afternoon the boys were playing in the room and I became overwhelmed with post-lunch fatigue. There was Graham, arms wide waiting to envelop me in warm open embrace. There is no judgement from Graham, just a shoulder to rest my tired head on. Sometimes Graham will take all us all into his cuddle and listen on silently as we read our stories. And if the boys decide to use him as a climbing frame or a urinal then Graham accepts it uncomplainingly.
But a day will come when we will usher Graham into retirement, when he is replaced by a snooker table or a PlayStation. I cannot face throwing him away but I don’t think I could evict him to the attic either. To live a hermit’s life among the cobwebs and the loft insulation. Besides I might forget he was up there and he’d scare the shit out of me; I might think Lou Carpenter has gone loopy and hidden up there.
I would hope that we can offer Graham a new existence, perhaps with a new deserving owner via a charity shop. I know someone who had to depart with their own gigantic teddy in this way, but their daughter insisted that at least the bear should be driven there in the front passenger of the car with a seatbelt.
That seems fair enough me. In fact I regret not strapping Sophie into the front seat and taking her straight to the landfill.