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Neck Deep

How did my basement get filled with stuffed toys?

I'm standing in my basement, neck deep in stuffed toys. There are piles of Kermit the Frogs, and other muppets, there are a dozen Dora dolls and Bob the Builders. There are generic little seahorses and stars. Some of them are the size of my hand and others I won at fairs, and are life sized, most of them are somewhere in between. The basement is filled in archaeological layers of stuffed toys, with Rainbow Brite and My Little Ponys on the bottom layer.

I remember, the day my boss threatened to fire me, and how he screamed at me. I was raging with anger, fear and frustration on my drive home. I couldn't face my girlfriend and our kids like this. I needed to cool off a little before I got home, so I went to K-Mart and wandered around. I slipped quarters into the crane machine in the lobby and watched the little robot hand plunge into the furry sea of toys and come up empty, again and again. Then it snagged a round yellow thing and held it. It was an imitation Care Bear, about a third of the size of a regular one. It was kinda cute, in a yellow sunny way. It had beams of sunshine painted on it's belly. I stood and held my prize for a minute, basking.

When I got home I gave the yellow bear to Lacy, my daughter.

"Thanks Dad." she said. She was missing teeth and her smile was so cute. She really liked the bear and seeing her wander around the house with it, and keep it on her bed like a treasured possession warmed me. It's these moments that make it worthwhile to be a parent, the moments when a small gift makes a small child happy. It's almost intoxicating. I sat watching TV feeling satisfied because of the happiness of my little girl, with all the worries of the day blasted away by the sunny bear, and a beer.

I guess that's why I got started, and I probably paid retail prices for all of these stuffed toys, but I don't regret the lost quarters. My daughter's grown and gone, grown up with kids of her own, and she could only love so many stuffed animals. It doesn't matter though. I still feel like I'm standing neck deep in happiness.

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