Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve felt like a defective toy.
I looked normal, but didn’t “work” quite as well as everyone else. I was always somewhat offbeat. I had trouble tying my shoes, could never tell the time, had a hard time determining right from left and took a very long time to comprehend anything I read. I did poorly on standardized tests, and I was a little wonky; not graceful like other little girls. I always struck out at Wiffle Ball and tripped over my shoelaces. To make things worse, my voice was a little deeper than the rest, so I felt older and out of place yet was still very much a child.
When I got to middle school and high school I felt it took me so much longer to understand things than everyone else. It also was a lot harder for me to fit in social situations because I always felt awkward and anxious around my peers. I would go home and cry to my mom every night, feeling the sobs deep under my rib cage.
I was a broken child. After my parents divorced when I was five, I felt abandoned by my father and went through most of my childhood paranoid that my friends and family would leave me. Some of them left me because my constant paranoia, lack of trust and abundance of self-doubt made them anxious. I felt useless and unlovable. Yet all I wanted in the world was to be loved and accepted. Metaphorically speaking, all I wanted was a home.
When I reread the story “Corduroy” by Don Freeman, I realized that I am, in many ways, the department store teddy bear with the missing button — I feel unnoticed and ignored in the ocean of toys and I lack some of the elegance the other stuffed bears and dolls seem to have. Yet, I am a sweet, loving creature in need of a friend and a place to call home. I am begging to be lifted from the lonely shelf with kind hands– to be welcomed and loved even if I can’t seem to find my missing button.
With love and affection, we thrive greatly. Let me tell you about Ginger, my cat. She is a lot like Corduroy; a lot like me. She was living alone in the dark basement of a sushi restaurant in a dirty cage until my friend rescued her and put up a Facebook status asking if anyone would like to adopt Ginger and give her a home. Immediately I answered, “that’s my cat! Bring her to me! I want her!”
I didn’t care that this cat was scared, unkempt, emaciated and very feral. I wanted to take care of her, love her unconditionally and take her into my apartment. At the time I, too, felt lonely and in need of love. I had just been dumped by my boyfriend and was yearning for something to hold, hug and feed. I wanted someone–something to nourish my soul. I wanted to promise another creature I would never ever, under any circumstance, abandon it.
A year and a half later, my cat Ginger is healthy, very confident and extremely well-fed. She’s no longer the meek little kitten who nobody pays attention to. She has grown into something more like a tigress! She is no longer emaciated and hungry; she is actually a few pounds overweight because she loves food so much. But she is happy and she is the most loved cat in the world. As I write this piece, she is sleeping comfortably in a ball in my couch. She looks like she’s smiling. My heart feels so warm. I now feel like the girl who purchased Corduroy from the department store, brought him home and sewed a new button on his overalls so he’d feel more comfortable.
In loving other creatures on this earth, we know we are not alone. In loving, we fulfill the emptiness and loneliness of the human spirit.
I know I am not alone.
We all take turns playing the role of the underdog. We feel inadequate, lonely, unnoticed and insignificant. We want to cry, “pick me, pick me!” But we can’t seem to find the voice to speak up for ourselves. Sometimes, in order to find the love we desire, we have to be the ideal friend, lover or companion to others. We have to open ourselves up. We have to love like crazy.