There’s something about Tom. To refer to Tom as a cuddly toy seems an understatement. He has been with me for 30 years. I first clapped eyes on him on Christmas morning, 1983. He sat proudly and was propped bolt upright in his fancy cardboard packaging, like a little king on his throne. Of all the toys in my little pile under the tree, I was immediately drawn to him.
I recall picking up the box and peering at him through the clear plastic window. I can’t remember my exact thoughts, they are a little hazy (I was only 4 years old), except that he was amazing and he was mine. I couldn’t wait to get him out of the box. But all of a sudden, the box was being wrenched out my hands. I roared ‘he’s mine, he’s mine!’ A great tug-of-war ensued with my older brother who was 6 at the time. ‘No he’s mine!’ I was a sturdy child, and being the only girl in a house of boys, meant I didn’t hold back during the rough and tumble and was unwilling to relinquish my grasp.
The living room door opened and in walked my father looking a little
pissed off disgruntled. My parents had only just gone back to bed and were most likely hoping for a little more sleep. Now, I can fully appreciate his reaction.
‘What are you fighting about?!’ We all froze. We hung our heads and explained what all the fuss was about. I remember the wait – hoping and wishing the verdict would go in my favour. I knew in my heart he was mine, but whatever my father said would be final and I wouldn’t be able to argue.
‘He’s Olivia’s’. Hurray!! The decision was made and that was the end of it. I was ecstatic. My brothers went back to opening their presents and peace was restored, if only for a little while. I’m not sure if nearly losing Tom before I got to give him a hug was the reason why I became so fond (and possessive) of him.
For years he was my lovely cuddly Tom, whom I cuddled at bed-time. Tom has a cute little face and a softness about him. He’s lost an eye, hardly unusual for a 30-year-old teddy, which, I think certainly adds to his charm. He’s suffered a few of my attempts to trim his fur with scissors (when I fancied myself as a little hairdresser) and his seams are exposed. He has a neat little jacket with a hood to cover his massive head. Years of cuddles have left his torso and legs rather flattened. He’s certainly lost his oomph, but he’s a nice shape and size – a perfect, snugly fit for under a small child’s arm.
Below, Tom makes good company for the viewing of ‘cartoonies’. Above is a little sketch I did of Tom nearly…twenty years ago! (gawd I’m feeling old). My little boy took a shine to Tom a few years ago and has officially adopted him. I still oversee his general welfare and insist that his coat remains on and that he isn’t left lying on the floor. He’s been through the washing machine so many times, I don’t know how many more 40 degree washes his little body can handle. I’ve thought about having him mended at some sort of teddybear hospital, but then he wouldn’t be Tom. I believe Santa distributed Tom via the Avon catalogue. I’ve googled him, in an attempt to find a replacement, but he isn’t out there. Well, I found only one for sale, but he was in similar shape to Tom. I’d love to have a replica made, so this old boy could have a rest.
Tom is well-travelled and came with me on summer holidays during my own childhood, and now with Dylan, my little boy. Last year, he was nearly left behind on the ferry to France. He had fallen below seats in the foyer. I pretended my relief at finding him was for my son’s sake ‘Oh I don’t know what he’d do if he lost Tom!’
Two years ago, my little boy had his first, and thankfully his last asthma attack. It was quite a bad episode and prior to this his asthma was undiagnosed. Every hour the nurses came to nebulise Dylan, and naturally he was terrified every time they entered the room. He was frightened of the mask and would put up a fight as they tried to put it on. After he settled and gave up his fight, he’d look up at me, defeated, and motion for me to hand Tom over… From then on, every time he was nebulised he clutched Tom in his arms. I know it sounds daft, but I’m very grateful for old Tom giving my little boy some much-needed comfort during what were frightening experiences for a 2-year-old boy.
Even today, nearly two years later, Tom is brought to bed every night. Last week, Dylan and his twin sister Eva took a special interest in Tom. They brushed his teeth, brought him a snack and informed me they weren’t ready to go to bed yet because they were busy putting Tom to bed.
So you see, he isn’t your average teddy. He has a special charm. Of all the toys the kids have, he really stands out, but I can’t fully understand why. He is after all only a teddy. Though he is a handsome little chap. Wouldn’t you agree?