Did your favorite toy as a child predict your future? Is it possible we understand our journey in life long before we can even articulate it? I was pondering those questions when I decided to give a stuffed Snoopy to my friend’s daughter for her first birthday. Snoopy was my first love, long before I was able to read the comic strips. I might have known him from the holiday specials on TV. Hard to say, since I was like four years old when I saw him sitting on a store shelf and begged my mom to buy him.
Snoopy was simple. A white dog with black ears and a black collar. Among the flashier stuffed animals dressed in colorful clothes, what made him stand out to me? Did I somehow know that someday, like Snoopy, I would hover over my typewriter trying to write prose that was less cliché than, “It was a dark and stormy night?” Did I know that I would face rejection for my writing and lots of self-doubt. Did I also recognize, though, that writing would never leave me?
Or was I drawn to the Snoopy that turned his nose to the sky and danced with abandon? Whose enthusiasm was so catching that others danced with him?
I remember even at a young age, I longed for a best friend. Someone I could tell my secrets to who would stand by me no matter what. Someone who would make me feel safe. Was I drawn to Snoopy because he was lucky enough to have Woodstock?
Or was it his rebellious streak? He was “owned” by Charlie Brown, but we all knew who was in charge. Could it have been his special breed of sarcasm? Or his tell-it-like-it-is manner that appealed to me? There were no head games with Snoopy.
But he could be so loving, too. So devoted and wise. Was I drawn most to his adventurous spirit, flying his doghouse into the great unknown, or his ability to be absolutely present, lying back on top of that same doghouse, eyes closed, in perfect repose. Could I possibly be both of those things? Could I don a pair of sunglasses and walk into the world like I owned the place, but also make no excuses when I needed to rest?
My Snoopy dog was literally loved to death. I took him everywhere. I couldn’t sleep without him. His white coat turned grey, his arms and legs grew limp, and worst of all, his fragile neck weakened to the point where his once-proud head would no longer hold high. I don’t recall what happened to him in the end. I probably didn’t want to know. But to this day, seeing Snoopy in any form makes me happy.
Are children instinctively drawn toward the things that represent the people they want to be, or the things they most want out of life? Can they be that aware? Sometimes it seems obvious . . . a young child is drawn toward a toy piano and goes on to be a virtuoso. Or carries a ball with them everywhere and goes on to play professional sports. Other times, it might be less obvious, though, to them and to us.
I have no idea if my friend’s daughter will like the Snoopy I bought for her—she’s on her own journey, after all—but maybe it’s my way of passing on to her the hope he represented to my four-year-old self that all the important things in life, friendship, devotion, humor, passion, daring, and even a bit of sarcasm, will be hers.
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