A friend, cruising last summer garage sales, found two treasures needing new homes. One was a velveteen rabbit like no other plush toy I have ever seen. It is squishy, pillow-like, with long, floppy purple ears and obviously home-made. The other was a Raggedy Ann doll, beautifully hand-made of natural fibres, with a quirky face and bright red yarn hair, wearing a pretty pinafore over an underdress carefully stitched.
She brought these, hidden in a plastic grocery sack, and produced them to me with a flourish, one by one. Now, both of us being women in our sixties, we still have enough child in us to be delighted in handling these soft toys, in looking in their rudimentary faces, in checking that they had the requisite and correct anatomy and in taking off and putting back on their clothes. These are meant to be played with by my new grandchild while she is visiting our home – special items to be found in Grandma’s house, meant not to languish forgotten in the toybox at the grandchild’s home.
Over tea, my friend and I discussed how important it is for grandchildren to feel they have a foothold in their grandparents’ homes. This can involve special rituals with the grandparents, a special place for the child to have naps, books that can be found and shared only while there and simple toys and games belonging to the child which stay at Grandpa and Grandma’s. So, these two characters have joined the bean-bag stuffed mandrill I found at a garage sale and the three softies sit in my vitrine waiting for my grand-daughter to visit with them. Soon, they will be joined by a sock-monkey which an artist friend is crafting.
I presented Raggedy Ann to my granddaughter while babysitting her one afternoon. She was 4 months old at the time. She was sitting in her baby sling and I placed the doll on her lap. She immediately gazed at the doll’s face and her slow smile bloomed. She touched the red yarn hair and her attention was firmly focussed for several minutes.
The velveteen rabbit is on reserve for later, when she is older, for a rest and nap buddy. It will make a cushy pillow as it can be molded and bent to be a comfortable, huggable armful.
I am sure that soon there will be naming of these creatures as my grandchild takes ownership of them.
Meanwhile I am collecting simple wooden toys – blocks, dominoes, pick-up sticks. My husband and I play with these, sometimes, in anticipation of future games with our granchild. We get to be kids again for a short time. A friend with a keen sense of fun is on reserve to engage in a game of Cat’s Cradle. As time passes, ideas occur to me for what simple toys to acquire in anticipation of amusing and learning with my grandchild, but I am open to any suggestions.