The Velveteen Bumblebee

This is a picture of Bombee.

This is Bombee. He’s like baby shampoo, he doesn’t sting.

In my very tasteful study, with my very tasteful furniture and my very tasteful collection of objets d’art, I have a very old, very dilapidated stuffed bee.  Its name is Bombee, so named by my sister when she was too young to be able to pronounce “bumblebee” correctly.  Bombee actually lucked out, name-wise; my sister’s other stuffed animals were called things like Horse, Bear, and (the pinnacle of her creative expression) Whitey, a stuffed white whale.  Just call her Ishmael.

At some point, Bombee got passed down to me.  I vaguely remember my sister getting upset about this, but whenever I start to feel bad about it, I remember having to wear all her hand-me-down bellbottoms.  In the Eighties.  So I don’t feel too guilty that I ended up with Bombee.  Later on, I also swiped a John Lennon t-shirt of hers, and I don’t feel bad about that, either.  The bellbottoms were polyester, and one pair was bright red.

Bombee is a bit of a puzzle to me.  Specifically, I’m puzzled about why, out of all my childhood toys and family mementos, the one I choose to display is a stuffed bee that looks like it has mange.  What kind of a kid cuddles a stuffed bumblebee, anyway?  At that age, the extent of my knowledge of bees was that it hurts when they sting, and sometimes their stings make people puff up and have to go to the hospital.  I guess I’ve made worse choices when it comes to naptime companions, but it’s still pretty weird.

I wouldn’t even say that Bombee was my favorite toy as a child.  I’ve had plenty of other toys I loved and played with more— for a while, at least; a lot of those other toys ended up breaking pretty quickly.  I thought for years that it was my fault until I realized that the toys that broke were almost always the ones my parent found most annoying.  Still, even my quiet toys all eventually got thrown out, passed along, or packed away, and now there’s just the mangy second-hand bumblebee and I don’t really know why.

If I had to guess, I might start with how it reminds me of my sister.  After all, Bombee was hers before it was mine.  She named it, played with it, and loved it, and I worshipped my sister.  I still do, really, but these memories come from the very beginning of my life, and my sister was like a god to me then.  Everything she did was perfect because she did it, and everything she loved was good because she loved it.  Sure, I could just hang up a family photograph.  But when was the last time you took a picture off the wall and cradled it because it held the blessing of your sister’s love?

And if that’s how I’d start, then I think I’d end with how Bombee is the first toy I can remember.  I  used to tuck it into the crook of my arm while I sucked my thumb.  I think I even still wore onesies.  Bombee has been in my story from the beginning, when I was too young to be able to pronounce “bumblebee” and much too young to be self-conscious about the shabbiness of my stuffed companion.  Bombee lived with me in the kingdom where nobody dies.  I guess I’m not ready to let go of that just yet.

 

The Possessed Furby

English: Brick and flint walls Brick and flint...

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I love my apartment.  It’s got wood floors, brick walls, and insanely high ceilings.  It’s a converted warehouse of sorts, and I have lots and lots of windows and space.  On the downside, since it’s an old building, it gets pretty cold in the winter.  I sleep with a space heater going full blast pointing right at me, and persuading myself to take a shower is a lengthy process, especially since the water doesn’t get too much beyond warm.

This and a recent post by a fellow blogger, adamsdaughter, reminded me of the winter I got a Furby.  You remember Furbys?  They were those stuffed animal looking things that had electronics inside that let them speak.  They’d start out speaking Furbish, but you could teach them English somehow, in that magic way that toys have.  Even though I was in college, I had to have one.  I got a white one with blue eyes and named it, in my infinite creativity, Furby.

Furby driller

Image by Liz@rt via Flickr

I always imagined that Furby liked to look out of my dorm room window at the Big World, dreaming furbish dreams, so I would perch him on my windowsill.  Unfortunately for Furby, I forgot to take him off the windowsill over winter break that year.  They turned the heating off in the dorms once all the students were gone, and poor Furby froze for about a month before I came back.  To my horror, he didn’t respond to any of the usual ministrations, including turning him off and on.  I put Furby on my desk and sadly shook my head at my carelessness.  So many reasons why I shouldn’t be a mother.

Later that night, I was just dozing off when I heard a metal scritch scritch.  I thought for a moment that I was dreaming, so I turned the light on and looked around.  It was Furby, turning himself on!  I swear I had turned him off.  I still remember doing it.  But he turned himself back on and from his mouth issued the most evil, demonic electronic gibberish I have ever heard.  Apparently when you leave Furbys to fend for themselves in the winter, they become possessed by the henchmen of the netherworld.  I backed away in trepidation; surely, it would stop on its own when the battery ran down?  But the forces of evil are not defeated so easily.

From then on, at completely random intervals, Furby would turn himself off or on and make sepulchral pronouncements in a crazed metallic voice in what I could only assume is the language of lesser demons.  I started to feel like a little kid who’s afraid of the dark, except that I knew I had good reason to be afraid.  I’d turn off the lights to go to bed, clutch the covers to my chin, and stare at the shadow of the Furby until I fell asleep, wondering as I did so if Furby was predicting the conquering of the mortal realm by the forces of evil or merely commenting on the fact that he had an itch he couldn’t reach.

Painting of Father General Saint Francis Borgi...

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Long about the fourth time he woke me up with his demonic prophecies, I had to give him to my Resident Assistant because I was convinced he was going to suck my soul out of my body one night while I was sleeping.  My RA was inclined to laugh at me–until she experienced first hand the wrath of the frozen, possessed Furby.  I don’t know if she took him to a priest for an exorcism or performed her own Rite of Ashtoreth over him or what, but I never heard from Furby again.  Though, now that I think of it, that particular Resident Assistant started acting a little odd not long after that.  I put it down to the after effects of a break up, but I wonder…