15 December 2005
Sparkles: A Survivor's Story
Though he’s been a shade of dingy gray since the mid-70s, his name has always been Sparkles. He’s my 35-year-old stuffed Snoopy that I’ve had my entire life. While his ears and the majority of his facial features are long gone, Sparkles is a survivor – a sole survivor, actually. Originally there were three of them: Gorky, Sparkles and Woodman. To this day, I haven’t the faintest idea where we conjured up the names Gorky and Sparkles. Woodman, however, was a miniature Snoopy with a thick furrowed brow that gave him a similar countenance to that of Mr. Woodman, the vice principal from Welcome Back, Kotter.
Where I viewed the Snoopies as my best pals, my mother viewed them as rampant bacteria traps and a threat to public health. To prevent their untimely demise in a green trash bag, I had to subject them to an intense three-day cleaning ritual. Every few months, my mother put the Snoopies, who were not machine washable, into the washing machine where they became so waterlogged they were virtually unliftable. After one round in the dryer, they would be moved to the sun porch where – lined up like sunbathers on a Bionic Woman beach towel – they would dry out for three days, which seemed like an eternity to me.
Inevitably, tragedy struck one afternoon. Sparkles and Gorky emerged, dripping and sodden, from the washing machine but Woodman did not make it -- he’d completely disintegrated. I watched in horror as my mother scooped his linty remains from the inside of the washing machine with a measuring cup. A few months later, Gorky was beheaded in the same machine.
Luckily, Sparkles was a little heartier but over time his nose and ears became a casualty of the spin cycle. On a mission of mercy, my grandmother Nana Ree, turned one of my stuffed bunnies into an involuntary donor, transplanting his nose onto Sparkle’s naked snout and his ears onto his ill-shaped head. Then, realizing how stressed out I was every time wash day came around, Nana Ree uncovered some revolutionary dry cleaning solution for plush animals in Family Circle magazine that involved cornmeal and a semi-damp cloth. Sparkles never entered the washing machine again. He’s since lost his transplants but he’s still with us, and that’s what’s most important.