When I was a child I collected soft toys. This was not a stereotypically feminine exersize in playing house but an ambitious, undeniably eccentric form of worldbuilding. Each glove puppet, slipper, teddy bear and doll became a character: from “Eddie”, a dog who almost got me in trouble when he bit a woman on the nose, to “Tommy”, a daredevil who pioneered “no rope abseiling” (I threw him out of the window).
There was a government, a football team and, I believe, even a youth football team (my friend’s soft toys were their fierce rivals so they needed fresh recruits). I do not remember holding any kind of formal census but the ranks of “softies” swelled to at least a hundred.
I grew up, and my fantasies became more adolescent. The soft toys were stowed away, and now my parents, needing space, will send them to wherever soft toys rest once they have been let go. (I admit a few, Eddie and Tommy among them, have been kept for future sons, daughters, nephews or neices.) Clearing out their home, my parents also found a letter from my Gran, who died when I was young. Apparently, visiting her, I introduced my teddy bears to hers. It was touching to read.
I have few memories of my Grandmother. So immersed was I in childhood fantasies that people were taken for granted. I remember her as a kind and mysterious presence, encountered in her flat or the caravan she occupied in her Quaker friends’ garden. At her funeral, attended by a startling cross section of society, I was among few people not to weep.
Looking back, I appreciate her importance to me. Even if our relationship was a short one, the imagination that inspires me to write, such as it is, must have grown from the seeds of my inheritance. Thank you Gran. I wish I could have said that to you at the time.