All About Oliver

SONY DSCFor the past few days, my eldest son, nearly 3 years old now, has insisted on bringing his stuffed dog down from his bedroom so that it can sit beside him while he eats his breakfast.

The dog is an original pound puppy, kind of ratty and worn, with some of the paint worn off his eyes, his nose, once soft vinyl over fabric, rubbed down (and since chewed) to the shiny brown plastic core, and the strings that gave his paws shape long since broken and lost.  Despite these flaws, or perhaps because of them, my son loves the dog.  So do I.  His name is Oliver, and I was five when I gave him his first hug, named him, and told him he was my puppy, forever.

Oliver was a Christmas gift from my maternal grandfather, and he came to me during a bit rough period.  My grandfather had died only a few months before, and it was everyone’s first Christmas without him there.  I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for my grandmother, whose entire world revolved around my grandfather, to even focus on minor things like finding gifts for my sister and I, but her choice was perfect; I fell absolutely in love with my little grey puppy, rejecting the factory name for him (Cooler) in order to name him after a friend-of-the-family’s-dog (who was named for a disastrous first car ride in which it puked…all-o-ver).

Over the next couple of decades, Oliver remained a constant in my life.  He regularly slept in my bed throughout most of my childhood, and into my teenage years, before taking an honoured spot on a shelf nearby.  Still, whenever I was sick or hurt (or sometimes hungover) he somehow crept back into the bed…even into my early twenties.  There was something about having him there that made things better; he made me feel that comfortable, safe, cared-for feeling that I felt when I would get sick as a kid and my mother would watch over me.

Maybe that’s what I’m hoping my son finds in Oliver: a constant friend and companion, and comforting hand on his back when he needs it most.  Maybe one day he’ll even give Oliver, tired and bedraggled from too much love, to his own child, with the same hope.  I’m not sure it’s probable—Oliver can only handle so much—but it makes me smile (a little wistfully, perhaps) to think that something I loved so much will endure, and make my sons and grandchildren as happy as he made me.

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6 Comment

  1. Oren says: Reply

    I had dozens of little dolls in my bed, but one day, when I decided I was a grown up, I got rid of them. I was probably 10, and too self-important for this kind of stuff. I wish I had one to give my kids, though. That’s a great thing to be able to do.

    1. thenerd says: Reply

      I think I hit that same point, Oren, but Oliver was just too integral to my life by then. All the other stuffed toys went into a bag and disappeared, but I could only ever put Oliver as far away as a nearby bookshelf…

  2. neal says: Reply

    This is a great story. I had stuffed animals that I loved as a kid, but since I grew into a pretty unsentimental adult, they disappeared long before my daughter was born. But now when I think about it, I wish I’d saved a few. It’s so interesting, too, how an object can become a sort of talisman, a thing imbued with the magic of love, even if inanimate. Tom Hanks’ “Wilson” in Castaway comes to mind. But as “jokey” as a volleyball makes the concept, it’s not a joke. It’s about celebrating things that connect you to the world, that formed your life experience, that help you to remember. I’m going to think more on this . . .

    1. thenerd says: Reply

      Thanks, Neal! I think you’re spot on with the talisman idea, and I’ve actually got a second article in the works along that vein. Writing about Oliver got me to thinking about how relationship function on the basis of what we put into them, and how that imbuing process is what gives a relationship value, not any perceived or intrinsic value of the people/things in the relationship. I’ve got some kinks to work out, but I think it will end up following your overall train of thought.

  3. Larry says: Reply

    Sweet post. It’s cool to be able to pass something down that had (has) so much meaning to you and see your son enjoying it as well.

    1. thenerd says: Reply

      Thanks, Larry! It always puts a smile on my face to see him lugging Oliver down the stairs, and occasionally brings a tear to my eye when he falls asleep rubbing Oliver’s ears.

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