And by go, I mean they go in my car back to my city apartment, where they form a nice mountain in my living room. I am slowly sorting my way through these items, deciding what’s worth saving—dominoes, poker chips, mancala? Yes. Random games with missing pieces? Recycling bin. Battered towels and sheets to the pet shelter. Duplicates of favorite books to the library bin.
But one item—I hesitate even to say one thing. Can I say one guy, one person? One treasure has received special treatment. My stuffed Snoopy, a doll-sized toy from when I was in third grade, held pride of place on my bed (with Snoopy bedsheets) for years, until I discovered boys, cars and other teen pleasures. Snoopy still graced my bed then, like a decorative pillow, but I didn’t play with him anymore. He stayed home when I went to college. He lived in the closet for a while. But when I had my first baby, Snoopy came back to keep a stitched-on eye on the nursery. Thirty years later, he was keeping the top bunk safe at the summer cabin, and now he’s come back to my place.
I longed for a Snoopy in 1972. I burned inside, added “Snoopy” to every birthday and Christmas list, mooned over the daily and Sunday Peanuts comic strip, read and re-read the paperback collections my brother got from Scholastic. I had loved my dolls, but Snoopy was cool—he was Joe Cool, in fact. He was fluffy, soft and white, with a black leather collar (because he was a dog first), but I quickly sewed some clothes for him. Getting the hole for the tail right is tricky when you’re 9 and sewing by hand. Eventually I was gifted with an official Snoopy tennis outfit and a jean jacket and jeans set from the official Peanuts store at the ice rink in Santa Rosa, Calif., that Charles Schulz owned (he was a local resident and could often be spotted at the rink).
The longer I had Snoopy, the dingier he got, and there were a few mishaps where his neck seam split and he had to be stitched up. It wasn’t safe to put him through the washing machine, not the old basket-type washer we had; he lost his head more than once that way. So Snoopy is no longer sparkling white, but pilled and grayish. And yet, the smile is the same, the winking eyes still gaze back, and he smells like, I don’t know, like comfort. And love.
Because the one thing that Snoopy could do that virtually no one else could, when I was 10 or 20 or now, was sop my tears with his pilled gray-white fur. To love me unconditionally. I learned to draw Snoopy by fourth grade, and it was a creditable effort (I can still do it, too). It’s one long line from ear to neck, looping around his face. Scribble in the black ear and draw on the collar. But the stuffed Snoopy’s face has a softer curve, three dimensions, and my face fit against his, and my arms went around him, and I’d cry until I stopped. Snoopy didn’t judge.
I brought Snoopy home from the cabin last week and set him on the sofa, where I can see the same smiling face, the crooked head, his neck too weak to hold it up. I was lying on the sofa this afternoon reading after lunch and found that Snoopy was right next to my shoulder, and from my position, the view of Snoopy’s face triggered a flood of memories, happy and sad. I reached for him, put my face against his, and we fit like two puzzle pieces, yin and yang, and I remembered how many times I had cried into his fur.
To quote from The Velveteen Rabbit, Snoopy is real. He’s not a toy. He’s a memory bank, a safe haven, a quiet embrace from the past, a steadfast love that remains. As long as his stitched-on smile and eyes keep watch on me, I’m safe. I’ll be all right.