Bobby, our cat, wanted everyone to see his little bear. For those of you who have not met him yet, Bobby’s nickname is “Little Whanh,” because he is a kitty that does not Meow. No jokes please.
When we were small children living on Staten Island, NY, our grandparents told us over the telephone that they were sending us puppy dogs. They said it was our little secret and not to talk about it. Nannie and Papa lived in Miami, Florida and usually were not with us for the Holidays.
When we heard the news Mary and I expressed every word and gesture of utter happiness that we could muster. We could not believe our good fortune. We had wanted, begged and pleaded with our parents for over a year to let us have a dog. And now we were to have two puppies! Oh, such a huge secret to keep. Wouldn’t our parents be surprised.
When they phoned us a few days later to say the puppies were on their way, they reminded us that we were to behave properly. They expected us to take very good care of our dogs and to treat them nicely. We promised them that we would.
We tried very hard to be on our best behavior. At night while we were supposed to be asleep, we would whisper excitedly underneath the sheets. ” I wonder if they are sending a leash.” Mary wondered. I exclaimed “We must buy some pretty bowls, one for water and one for food.” “Yes.” Mary agreed. On and on we talked until weariness overtook us and we drifted to sleep.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, although it had only been five days, there came a loud knock at our front door. We looked out the window to see the postman’s truck. U.S. Mail was printed on it’s side. We excitedly ran toward our father who was on his way to answer the knock.
After daddy opened the door, the postman smiled and offered the large package. It was covered in light brown paper and tied up with heavy white string. Attached at the top was a little wodden handle, to make it easier to carry. Daddy took the parcel, thanked the postman then closed the door.
Upon seeing the closed up package we both immediately became alarmed. We started dancing with anxiety around our father and trying to touch the box.
There weren’t any holes to allow air inside! How could the puppies breath! Now we started fretting as he set down the box and we did not hear any sounds coming from within. Oh no!
Daddy didn’t seem upset at all. In fact, just the opposite. He turned to us and smiling said “I suppose you would like to open your gifts now.” “Oh yes!” we exclaimed.
He brought out the scissors and cut through first the strings and then the brown paper. By this time we could hardly contain our urgency.
Inside were two boxes wrapped with Christmas paper. We couldn’t understand why our grandparents thought they could send puppies in closed boxes. Our father handed us our gifts. Now we were frantically tearing off the paper and prying off the tops of each box. “Oh, the poor puppies!” we both cried.
Tears were streaming down our frightened faces. Noticing this our father asked “Why are you crying? You’ve just received Christmas presents from your grandparents.”
Suddenly it dawned on him why were so upset, just as we exclaimed “Daddy the puppies cannot still be alive.”
We opened the lids and to our relief there were no dead puppies. Only a stuffed animal was inside each box. Trembling, our small hands lifted the dogs out of the tissue paper and we really did try so hard to hide our disappointment. Our crestfallen faces told the tale.
The puppies were Collies, like “Lassie” on the television show, just as Nannie and Papa had promised. The course hair or fur wasn’t soft and silky as a real Collie’s would be. Instead it was rough and dry feeling. The eyes stared unseeing and the nose was very hard plastic. Both were in the same position, each lying down so they could easily be righted should they get turned over.
By this time our mother entered the kitchen and at once she took in the whole scene. She acknowledged the dashed hopes and dreams Mary and I had whispered under our bedcovers. Gathering us close she hugged us saying that grandparents should not have promised puppies and given stuffed animals in their wake.
As most mothers can, she soothed us and held our small bodies, now hot from our exhausted tears. She wiped our faces with her handkerchief and announced “Let’s get everyone into the car and go to Carvel’s for ice cream cones.” Our older sister and brother piped in with cheerful agreement.
Father, Mother, Mama, Charley, Melody, Mary and I piled into our station wagon to head toward Carvel’s, on the other side of the island. During the short ride Mary and I exchanged glances. We smiled to share what the other was feeling. We held hands until we were handed our ice cream cones.
This is a story I share because I have a great love of the plush and beautiful stuffed animals that are made today. I don’t know about Mary but it took me decades to get over this tramautic experience.
I assuaged my hidden sadness with an array of stuffed animals I’ve purchased through the years. I finally forgave Nannie and Papa for tricking us so, although I never let them think anything was amiss. I love them dearly and miss them still.
And when at night ‘neath my covers I sleep…sometimes I clutch a small, soft, plush little stuffed animal and smile. Bobby said he understands completely “Whannh.”