When I was young, I had a toy called Teddy Ruxpin. Children of the 80’s should instantly know of Teddy’s fame. A bizarrely beige stuffed bear with a torso of hard plastic covered by what I can only assume was that giant lead bib they drape over you when taking x-rays at the dentist office. In his back was a slot for a cassette player in which he would read Ruxpin branded stories that you could follow along with. Apparently this thing was the best-selling toy of 1985 and 1986 – and so in my toy chest it lived. For years and years. Waiting for it’s day.
Flash forward to the early 90’s – I was maybe five or six years old and life was going pretty great. At that point TV wasn’t a huge part of my home existence – and certainly my mother made sure I didn’t watch a tremendous amount of it (or really any of it); but my grandparents always had the latest and greatest and when spending the night at their house I’d get to binge through the channels – set adrift in the foreign land of cable unsupervised (or…I’d just watch the Mary Martin Peter Pan musical on VHS…). One fateful night, I fell asleep with the TV on, all cozy in my make-shift couch fort digs (classic five-year-old style), and was awoken in the middle of the night to a trailer for a movie – Child’s Play 2. I still vividly remember clips of a kid playing with Chucky, proclaiming to his mom that the batteries were dead, and then Chucky attacking them all – my imagination ran wild.
Back at home – poor Teddy’s golden years were behind him and the brick-sized D batteries that gave him life were showing their age. What once was a slightly unnerving (yet mildly friendly) nasally voice was slowly turning the sound of Satan’s demonic horde. Scary demon bear? Check. Dead Batteries? Check. In my head, clearly Teddy and Chucky were in cahoots to end my life.
I’m not sure I ever recovered from the betrayal of ol’ Teddy Ruxpin and his decent into the dark side. As an adult I harbor a small amount of guilt knowing he did nothing for me to turn on him – but I think he set the stage for me to be weary of overtly beige friendliness, and for that I have him to thank. Skepticism is an important trait in life. Perhaps not untamed skepticism, but skepticism none-the-less. If you have reason to believe something might happen – there’s probably a nugget of wisdom that led you to that conclusion and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that. Was Ruxpin planning to kill me? We’ll never know – locking him in my toy chest and stacking the heaviest of my sets on top of it saw to that; but to approach situations with caution is a lesson of which Teddy is my first memory surrounding fear. And fear is ok. You will fear a lot of innocuous and irrational things in your life – from physical objects to metaphorical ideas to potent feels. A lot of times you’ll look back and wonder what you were ever afraid of in the first place – and moving forward that’s important too. Acknowledging the reality behind an unfounded and bizarre moment of terror – when there was really no reason for any terror to be had – gives you the strength to debunk future things that scare you. It teaches you to be brave enough to pass by a moment – because on the other side it won’t seem nearly as threatening, or scary, or harmful as it did from in front of it.
Above all else Teddy taught me to listen to my gut; and to know that just because somebody SAYS they want to be your friend, doesn’t mean that’s their true intent…or that they aren’t just a bizarrely uncuddly demonic bear just biding their time to collect the bones of yet another unsuspecting five year old.
…now that I mention it…I don’t know whatever happened to that thing…oh god.