Do you remember the Beanie Baby craze of the early 1990s? These popular little toy animals had names like Chocolate the Moose, Squealer the Pig, and Patti the Platypus. They were stuffed loosely with plastic pellets (“beans”), making them small, malleable little critters. They were inexpensive at the time but over the passage of years, some of these beanie babies have become quite valuable.
I met my first and only beanie baby on the campus of Northern Illinois University in the late 1990s. Her name was Nanook the Husky. It was an appropriate meeting place since the Husky is the university’s mascot. Nanook peeked at me from her place on top of the computer screen that belonged to our friend’s secretary. I admired the little blighter and the next thing I knew, she was mine. A gift.
I brought Nanook home from Illinois and, mimic that I am, placed her atop my computer screen to watch over me and “inspire” my work. Kind of a muse infusion, if you will. When I was writing and, if I hit a snag, I’d look at Nanook, with the hope the little Husky had something for me. Perhaps a memory jog, a light of inspiration, a kindly shoulder to cry on. I know, I know, a bit silly. Actually, those little dalliances of the brain usually bought me “think time” to find my way out of the snag. And so the little creature took up residency, looming over my computer screen in our home office for many years.
Then in June, my husband became bed-bound. His health team brought in a hospital bed for his comfort. I filled the bedroom with memorabilia, surrounding him with things he liked. It’s good for people with dementia to see their legacy and memories. As of today, on the door to the room hang three pennants: the New York Yankees, Northern Illinois University (BS), Oklahoma State (MS). On the wall are four pictures from his school and Marine days. Family pictures and those of friends sit on top of a chest. Near the TV sits a baseball trophy and two special baseball style caps he always liked to wear. You get the idea. One day I added Nanook.
On a whim, I took the Husky from her place on top of my computer screen into the bedroom and placed her on Tony’s knee as he slept. He woke to find the blue-eyed, faithful dog looking at him. Nanook became a resident of the hospital bed, a silent buddy, draped over the pillow, on the dinner tray, on Tony’s shoulder. All in good fun. Happy ending, except I’d lost my little good luck talisman.
Since then I’ve replaced Nanook with a heart and a blue “stone.” They’re not as cute as she is, but they give me something to stare at, to talk or yell at. And they buy me “think time” as I’m writing. They don’t sit atop the computer screen but under it. I occasionally pick them up, hold them, rub them, toss them from hand to hand.
In the greater Beanie Baby world, Nanook has not increased in financial value like Valentino the Bear or Claude the Crab, but she has become invaluable as a “feel-good” talisman for a bed-bound 97-year-old. It’s a happy ending for a little Husky who journeyed from Illinois, proceeded to my California writer’s office and, ultimately, settled into the bedside comfort of a nonagenarian.