I sleep with a fatigued stuffed rabbit by the name of Hoppy. She was my childhood best friend, a plush bunny in the softest shade of pink. She is worn and well-loved, like a favorite sweater. Her eyes, once shiny and bright, are now scratched, dull black beads that look at the world with a frazzled perspective. Her fuzzy head hangs limp off of her droopy neck. A few frayed threads imply the former existence of a little pink nose. Her long, silky ears have heard my deepest secrets, endured my worst jokes, and soaked up buckets of tears. This shabby yet significant little bunny has been with me through it all.
I don’t remember being gifted Hoppy as a child; she was always there. That amiable stuffed rabbit was one of the few constants in my life. She was with me when we moved away from home, with me for every hospital trip, and with me on my first day at a new school. No matter what was happening, Hoppy was there. She’d gaze up at me, through her shiny bead eyes, smelling of home and laundry detergent, reminding me that everything was going to be okay. One of my earliest memories is from when I was about two years old. After poking my grandma’s cat Henry one too many times, I somehow obtained a red, swollen scratch down the length of my chubby little arm. Rather than running to my grandparents, I sat under the dining room table crying into Hoppy’s soft embrace. Growing up, I found that I often preferred confiding in my stuffed rabbit.
As a child, I had piles and piles of stuffed animals and various toys. But, it was always crystal clear that Hoppy reigned supreme. My kinship with her inspired in me a similar love for all rabbits. I read and re-read Margery Williams’ devastating book, The Velveteen Rabbit, feeling utterly distraught for the boy forced to give up his germ-infested stuffed rabbit. I have always feared that I would one day have to part with Hoppy, like that unlucky little boy.
Other than occasional doctor’s visits and hospital trips, Hoppy didn’t get to go out on the town much. I almost never took her out in public, like most kids tend to do with their favorite stuffed animals. I rarely even dragged her around the house. Hoppy remained on my bed, with a few trips to the closet here and there. I never really had friends when I was younger, because, for some reason unbeknownst to me, my mother decided that homeschooling my brother and I was the best way to raise well-behaved children. As a result, Hoppy was the closest friend I had growing up. Hoppy has spent every night by my side, and because of that, she has seen and endured more than I’d like to admit. She’s seen me pee myself, throw up all over myself, cry myself to sleep, you name it. She’s seen me wake up laughing and stay up all night reading. Hoppy remained with me through two bouts of pneumonia, several cases of the flu, and multiple broken bones. She was there the night my brother was born and the night my family announced we were moving to California. She has been with me through it all, and I’ve washed her many times because of it.
An easy explanation for my affection would be that Hoppy filled a void in my life that being homeschooled took from me, such as the childhood friend I never had. But I believe Hoppy deserves more credit than that. My frazzled stuffed bunny is a symbol. A symbol of me not caring what people think; a symbol of the fact that it’s okay to hold onto something- just because it feels good. We are taught to let go of certain things at certain times… to move on and to grow up. But when I look at floppy Hoppy’s well-loved exterior, I am reminded of something that goes far beyond the surface: the unselfconsciousness of childhood, a careless disregard that fades with maturity. I see so much value in holding onto that uninhibited joy- even if it is in the form of a measly stuffed animal.