Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rocky the Raccoon

I've been thinking lately about the stories that get told and retold in my family. There are seven of us (Mom, Dad, three brothers, two sisters) and we all love to be in the spotlight and make people laugh. Even now, whenever we get together we eventually find ourselves all sitting in the same room, telling stories about our latest adventures, vying for everyone elses attention and aiming for the biggest reaction. My husband tells me this is not typical behavior.

Some of my memories from childhood are so distinct because my parents told stories to family friends within my earshot (I learned a lot about my parents' perspective by sitting at the grown-ups' table and just listening). I learned early in life that there is humor in the odd and the ordinary, and the secret to capturing the mood of any given moment is all in the re-telling. Hearing my parents' grown-up friends laugh and appreciate events that I myself had experienced made a big impression on me.

I plan to blog some of these memories, for the sake of record keeping and for your entertainment. Hope you enjoy them.

Rocky the Raccoon

My brother and I have a pair of stuffed animals we were given when we were very young. Back then, it was just the two of us, a few years before brother number two was born, when we were partners in crime.

As the older sister, most of our mischief was initiated by me. It was my idea to eat the leftover gingerbread house out of the metal garbage can in the backyard (stale candy is still sweet!). Mom wasn't too impressed when she found us burying a neighbor kid in our sandbox (was it Melody or Raymond? Or kids from the next house down, Chewey and Junior? I don't recall). I'm pretty sure I convinced my brother it was a good idea to taste-test our cat's food. We were a dynamic duo. So it struck me as very considerate when we were given matching toys.

The stuffed animals both had red striped shirts (sewn-on) and removable hooded jackets. Mine was a dog and my brother's was a raccoon.

Someone is selling the same dog on e-bay (in the original jacket, which I have long since lost) :

Gosh I love the Internet

The seller's product description is too funny:
This is a very old puppy dog plush by Interpur!
It is a tan dog with brown ears.
His tongue is sticking out.
He has on a hooded jacket with a zipper.
Under the jacket is a striped shirt.
He measures: 12in long.
It is in GOOD used condition!
There is a little bit of crust on the back of his head (looks like yogurt?).
Other than that, normal wear for a toy of this age.. 1960?
Sounds about right. But 1960 seems old...if that's true, then we were not the first kids to love these toys. I still remember how fun it was to be able to work the small zipper all by myself.

I don’t remember when we originally received the stuffed animals, but I'm pretty sure they were re-gifted. I think what happened is that we left our toys laying around the house one too many times and they were confiscated by Mom. The genius of her parenting, however, was that after good behavior, she returned our own toys to us, wrapped like gifts in butcher paper. I remember how surprised I was to receive a present when it wasn’t even a holiday! Christmas was months away and my June birthday had already come and gone.

I wish I could recall all the particulars of receiving those presents, but I was no older than 4 or 5 at the time. Did we earn back our toys by doing our chores? Was Mom guilty about keeping them from us and made their return special by wrapping them?

I don't know if I ever named my dog. But his importance in my childhood turned out to be just a supporting role to his stuffed animal companion, whom my brother named Rocky the Raccoon.

Rocky the Raccoon was discovered one day by Dad in the empty lot behind our house. Apparently we hadn't learned our lesson about putting toys away. Rocky had been torn apart by the city lawn mowers. Dad discreetly collected as many pieces as he could, never calling attention to the scene of the crime. He knew the severed limbs and stuffing spread over cut grass would be too much for us to take.

[I have a very clear image in my mind of how and where this took place, but I don't remember if I was actually there when Dad found Rocky, or if the memory was created when Dad told the story after the fact.]

Dad brought all the pieces to Mom, soggy from dew. She went to work, refilling Rocky with the collected cotton stuffing and reconnecting his top and bottom halves (poor guy was split in two). His stuffing was blue. I watched Mom sew, with instructions to not say anything yet to my brother. It was a shock to see his innards on the outside, like the startling red of blood against skin. Mom resurrected him, and washed him, and he looked good as new.

Only after Rocky was reunited with my brother (with much fanfare) did we all realize a marked difference in Rocky’s appearance. Prior to his accident, Rocky’s legs bent at a natural crease where they connected to his torso, allowing him to be propped in a seated position, grey legs outstretched in front. But after surgery, his legs only bent behind him.

Mom had accidentally sown his lower half on backwards.

Photo taken this week, from Stuffed Animal Retirement Home in my brother's garage


  1. Our family story telling isn't typical? Yikes!

    BTW, I used that Rocky story in many sermons illustrating communion, the "re-membering" of alienated parts in the body of Christ. Your version is better!

  2. That story made me laugh! I'm so glad you included a picture of poor backwards Rocky. The dog that you pictured, with the little hooded jacket, seems so familiar. I may have had one just like it. But the memory is pretty fuzzy. The little zipper on the jacket is what seems most familiar to me. Loved the post! Your storytelling is always so well crafted. :)

  3. HAHAHA!!!! I love your stories.