Shannon’s collection began almost the day she was born. As soon as the telephone wires carried news of her arrival, the animals started coming as if Noah himself had called them. To almost every baby present there was attached something squeaky or fuzzy.
Of course, during those first few weeks of life, Shannon didn’t even know about her animals. Each new creature settled in her bassinet or on her shelf, and just waited for her to notice. In the meantime, I enjoyed the cute plush faces.
Babies grow by leaps and bounds and soon Shannon was plumper than her panda. She began to reach for things, and chew on them, and drool on them, and eventually learned to throw them. Her animals were the prime target of her ‘affections’ and reveled in the attention.
I never really noticed the zoo that had overtaken Shannon’s world. All those critters were just baby things to be picked up or tripped over. It wasn’t until our first move that I realized how many there were. I packed all her old friends in one big box, and kept the newer, less dilapidated ones in another. I was sure she’d never miss the ones in poor condition. She was still too young to have formed any lasting relationships.
Shannon thrived and grew and it became apparent that she possessed a sweet disposition. She was a bright, happy toddler who took great interest in anything smaller than herself. She was fascinated by animal stories and cartoons. Her days were filled with the imaginary adventures of her dolls and stuffed friends. And at naps or bedtime one of her charges was selected to cuddle with her and share her dreams.
Our society is a mobile one, and our family was no exception, so once again we pulled up stakes and moved. Shannon’s animals and dolls now filled three big boxes. I still had the original box of
damaged ones to which I had added the newly injured.
The summer that followed that particular move was when Shannon first began her real “attachments”. She was three then, and quite able to speak her mind. When one of her favorite animals could not be found, she refused food, sleep or whatever else was necessary at the time. Nothing mattered but the reunion with her loved one. Her favorites may have varied from day to day, but whatever it was, it had better be close by.
During that year, a pattern began to develop in Shannon’s preferences. Teddy bears are, of course, always a cherished friend, but Shannon also delighted in giraffes, There was a rather unusual thing about the way Shannon acquired her companions. Sometimes she just found them along a road, or in a field somewhere. I never saw anyone who found so many things in such odd places. But what was really strange was that she could meet some animal she liked, possessed by another child, and that child would eventually give it to her. It was almost as if the other child recognized Shannon’s deep love for little creatures. He or she would seem to know that the animal was going to a special home, and gladly give it up. I would try to give them back, but they wouldn’t take them.
Shannon also found the box of damaged animals. One by one they became part of the menagerie. Those most damaged were brought to me for immediate repairs. The others were accepted just as they were; eyeless, noseless, squeakless or whatever. She loved them all.
On one occasion, a very small member of the giraffe family was lost during a boat ride. Shannon was near hysterical. The boat, the pier and the beach were all carefully searched, but the giraffe was gone. Even strangers joined in to find it, so heart wrenching were her sobs.
This particular incident happened during a camping trip, and since no other members of the giraffe family had accompanied us, we were hard pressed to soothe our sensitive child. Even a new squeaky rhinoceros did not ease her pain.
As luck would have it, our travels during that trip brought us to a circus museum, complete with souvenirs. I managed to find another little giraffe of comparable lovability amongst the hawker’s wares. It was, unfortunately, part of a set that carried a price common to souvenirs--exorbitant. I relented and bought it anyway, figuring to divide the set of animals equally between Shannon and her older brother. I don’t have to tell you what happened to her brother’s share. The entire set, and the squeaky rhinoceros, became part of Shannon’s heart.
Shannon is now five. She still possesses every single animal that was ever given to her, and each in its turn is granted her special attention. She introduces them to strangers, and insists that the rest of the family take notice of their individual importance. Even the family pet, our cat, is expected to share in their imaginary escapades. The cat refuses to get involved in the activities that Shannon plans for her friends, but always stays close enough to watch the proceedings. He too has a place in her world.
We’ve all gotten used to having the animals everywhere about. They are so much a part of Shannon’s life that they’ve become a part of our lives as well.
According to the Bible stories, we are all descendents of Noah, his family being the only one saved from the Great Flood. If such is true, Shannon has certainly inherited much from her ancestor. The only thing she doesn’t have at least two of is a unicorn.