A word of explanation: I wrote this for a class, and since I haven’t written much in the last few months, I thought I should put it up.
Growing up, my brothers and I loved to play games. We did not need a game board or cards to play them. Our game pieces were our toys, and the rules were made up as we went along. We liked our cars, because we had so many of them, and we liked our dinosaurs and legos, but we always had a tiny bit of favoritism for our stuffed animals. Our stuffed animals, and the kingdom they built, were what made our childhood special.
It was not hard to guess why. When something shares your confidence, you want to make it the hero in all your games. To three hyper-imaginative children, stuffed animals were perfect dolls. You could make them clothes, but that wasn’t necessary. They could be thrown and stepped on, but they would never hurt you the way the spiky plastic toys would. Besides, they all looked the same. This made history and family structure easy. Adam’s toys were the Dogginas, Sam’s the Doggos, and mine were the Cattianas. They conquered kingdoms, fought blanket monsters, and gnashed their teeth against the irresistible fiend, Goodwill, who had devoured so many of their comrades. There was intrigue and mystery as the armies of King Foxy fought against the villainous Lisechecks and drove them back to their borders. The fairies and the cars were all in their little areas, surrounded by the watchful stuffed animals. Wars were fought every year or so, but what can you expect with two little brothers?
Animal Land gave our creativity jumper cables. Not only did we draw pictures of our pets, but we gave them genealogies. The countryside had to be mapped, and cities and rivers were discovered that could not be found on any other chart. President Blackie Cattiana and King Foxy Doggina had a lasting truce, as they fought to chase out the wicked Shep and her children from their ranks. But all these adventures needed to be written about. Soon a newspaper sprang up, The Animal Enterprise. I was the editor and illustrator. Adam was in charge of the sports page. And Sam…well, Sam was the one whose animals’ exploits were read about in the stories. Sadly, most of the villains in Animal Land were of that notorious family, Doggos. His ideas were rather radical for our culture, and not always understood, but always tolerated. Our creativity knew no bounds!
There was no stopping the invincible armies of Blackie and Foxy, and in peacetime, think of all the competitions! There were the Animal Olympics, of course, and Animal Soccer, Basketball, Football, and cheerleading. Shops sprang up, with their own advertisements. Then we went through our “cardboard box” stage, where we commandeered boxes to create animal castles for the royalty. I kept our animals readily supplied with wedding dresses and flags, curtains and capes, all made from Grandma’s scrap-box. There was no defeating Animal Land. It would reign forever!
Somehow, though no one knows when or how, Animal Land seemed less important to us. For one thing, I was interested in a far more amazing realm, the animal country of Symettria. The Spy Club were testing the waters of mystery, and the human spies, the MPA agents, cautiously lifted their banner high in my imagination. Instead of playing with my toys, I created my own characters with my pen and pencil. As I began to write and draw, my playing became more and more infrequent. Soon my play-time was limited to outside, then only on the swings. It was so much more exciting to play our characters ourselves. Why would we want to play stuffed animals?
We moved on, I suppose. Lily the Leopard and Sam Houston the Teddy were replaced in my mind with Nala Fletcher, Jaycee Fox, and Agent R, who only existed in my mind and my writing. Adam left his animals to chase after sports stars, and Sam’s unquenchable imagination was filled with Jedi, Pokémon, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Our maps became wrinkled and torn, our advertisements were replaced by comic pages chronicling the latest adventures of the Spy Club, and Foxy’s army sat restlessly, waiting for an adversary. That adversary never came. Now it’s too late. We’re too old.
I miss the days when King Foxy’s armies ruled the animal world. It is not easy to grow up. We want to be able to stay little all the time, but that is not possible. When our childhood is over, we first see what we have lost. One day, perhaps, when we have children of our own, Animal Land will awake from its sleep. But for now, our younger siblings are playing, creating, and building their own imaginary world. Their creed is much different than ours, and they are writing their own stories with their own stuffed animals. Children should be allowed to build their imaginary kingdoms while they can, because one day they will look back on them with fondness and regret, as I do.