It stinks being sick, doesn’t it? When I was a kid, I would sometimes pray to pass for being ill. I didn’t want to be truly suffering from a stomachache or a high fever, but if I could convince my mother that I was “under the weather,” I could stay in bed and cut out paper dolls, draw in my “Great Moments in Ballet” coloring book, and snuggle with my panda bear and stuffed horse. What more could an 8-year-old want?
Well, this ruse of being “faux feverish” did succeed during my first-grade, second-grade, and third-grade years. I was able to approximate the right balance of being sick enough to stay home but not ill enough to go to the doctor’s. It was a performance worthy of my mother’s favorite actress, Shirley MacLaine. (She loved the LIFE magazine photo essay that celebrated Shirley and her daughter, Stephanie,
called “Sachi.” Named me years later after little Stephanie “Sachiko,” in fact.) Hand this little kid an Oscar!
However, all the fun and games of being a pretend patient vanished when I was in fourth grade. I was diagnosed with hepatitis, and suddenly the allure evaporated. I was actually sick, and not just a little bit sick. I was weak, losing weight, losing energy, and desiring nothing more than sleep and watching reruns of “I Love Lucy.” As I lay in bed and studied my ceiling, I realized that payback truly was a witch! (Let’s face it, I was a pretty good 9-year-old, I never would have thought or uttered the infamous “b” word!)
While I convalesced at home, with occasional visits to the doctor and to a clinic where my blood was drawn and monitored, I had lots of time to think. I honestly can’t tell you how long I was out of school—it might have been six weeks—but for an elementary-school child, a month and a half is the equivalent of a year. I was antsy to return to school and actually looked forward to my afternoon delivery of my class work. (God bless you, Anne Waters, wherever you are. You loyally carted my homework assignments to my house every afternoon. You were a faithful, kind, true friend!)
As I did my classwork and read my chapters and practiced my script (now called “cursive writing”), I found myself teaching my stuffed pals. Since we were all home together, I figured they might as well learn too. So, with great patience and enormous empathy, I taught my panda, my horse, my monkey, and my owl to do long division, add three columns of numbers, and read the poem “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight” out loud with plenty of expression. (My real-live cat Andy observed all of this tomfoolery with the compassionate yet skeptical gaze that only a tomcat can master.)
The reason why my memory banks have swung open and have alighted on this bedridden time is because of Douglas Toys “Tatty Teddy” line. When I was home, sick and scared, many of my neighbors and friends stopped by for very brief, supervised visits. Many of them kindly brought me gifts—things to occupy a very opinionated and normally active little girl. I received my very first Ouija board (interesting choice for a supposedly gravely ill kid), a slew of Barbies and gorgeous accessories, and a record album that featured songs and poems celebrating the “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” I was in greedy glory.
Seeing the new “Tatty Teddy” bears, I know that I would have been pining for him to join my menagerie. These plush creations from Douglas are both toys (soft and cuddly) as well as greeting cards. They are message bearers: bears that share wishes for speedy recoveries, congratulations on babies, birthday wishes, encouraging sentiments, and expressions of friendship and love. Just perfect to send from “Me to You,” as the Douglas Cuddle Toy line is called.
Of course, after having pantomimed being groggy or lethargic—when I was anything but—I knew that I would never playact at being an invalid again. I learned my lesson when I was confined to my room for such a long, lonely stretch of time. However, after seeing how positively adorable these new critters are, I have to admit it’s difficult not to boast about how well my kids just did on their report cards (congratulations, anyone?) or not mention my cough that still lingers. I’m not saying I’m sick, but I hope to get well soon!