Stuffed Animal Kingdom: The Keys to Storyworlds

  I took a heartbreaking journey recently. The painstaking, memory filled process of sorting three trash bags full of well loved stuffed animals.

Okay, that was a little dramatic. But I did cry once through my grin.

My mama laughs sensitively if the subject of my growing up years enter a conversation. I never wanted to let go of childhood. I remember asking her, “What can you do as an adult?” Stumped her there. But I soon learned. Still, when something triggers a memory from those glorious years I thought was life, warm fuzzies dunk into my heart and bring back a tear on the rebound. Such a beautiful girlhood.

As I sorted each stuffed animal by family, I found it hard to recall all their names or even who was married to whom once upon a time. “Is that your mama?” I asked them. I don’t think they cared. They were quite exhausted from the years of play my brother, Jon, and me put them through. I took group pictures and thought about the story worlds we created. In the afternoon long process, I realized how important those days were.

Aha! This is where my imagination began developing. No two of these critters were alike. No family was alike. They had their own voice, made their own decisions. I learned how to create compelling stories. After all, if it couldn’t keep the attention of an eight and ten year old, we moved on.

I learned what drives a story forward, how to create conflict and resolve. I guess you could say my first coauthor was my brother. He took on one set of characters, I took on the other. We constantly pitted them against impossible odds and extreme dangers. I usually let him take on the part of the antagonist. (He was a natural)

When our mama made an announcement for dinner, the answer was typically a question, “Can we finish this scene?” At a “stopping point” we’d leave them set up in a way we could pick up the story right where we left off. Sometimes the same one would last for days. How inconvenient when we set up our world on a bed. It was destroyed nightly and had to be rebuilt. Same with hallways. My dad might scoot plastic horses and their stuffed animal riders out of the walkway when he arrived home from work, only to have us screech, “No! They were all set up for the next scene!” Anyone who lives with a writer is probably cracking up with laughter at the parallels here.

The bags sorted, I sent my brother a text asking if there were any stuffed animals he wanted to save. It took three texts and a face-to-face conversation to get him to answer, “Oh, probably just Jimmy and Smoky.” He wouldn’t admit it, but I could bet my favorite teddy bear, Springer Sr., that deep down, he loves those memories as much as I do. And he’s a natural storyteller.

I wonder why.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Prov. 3:5-6

For Him,

Sarah Elisabeth