While picking up the house today, I found Gingerbread Man stuffed way into the back of the nightstand. It’s been years since I’ve seen him and despite his forlorn and dusty state, we had a sweet reunion. He might not seem like much, but he has led an interesting, if not always easy, life.
If family legend is to be believed, he was my very first Christmas present. My grandma made a stuffed animal for each of the five kids that year – and he was mine. He has been my companion ever since. He went to summer camp and sleepovers. He took part in a high school exchange program and went to Austria in his teens. He studied in Germany for a year. He went to Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and the Philippines. He immigrated to Austria.
His college years were especially eventful. It started harmlessly with a lot of dorm room parties, but the pictures from those days tell a story of constantly increasing abuse. In one he is being bitten, in another someone is sitting on him and laughing. A particularly gruesome photograph shows him hanging from a ceiling lamp and me in the process of cutting him down. He also lost an eye at some point, but I can’t remember the circumstances. Once he suffered serious burn injuries when my roommate chose a reading lamp as the place to hide him. I came home and turned on the light – a few minutes later, smoke appeared and the smell of burned yarn filled the air. He ended up being patched and re-stuffed by my very remorseful roommate’s mother. The scars on his back are still visible.
Then the kidnappings started. I would come home to find a note on my bed in the place where the Gingerbread Man usually lay. At first it was just Twinkies, but the ransoms kept getting bigger. Once I had to pay two whole pizzas to get him back. But that wasn’t the worst part. The ransom notes were so vicious – calling him “the little brown turd” and worse. Threatening that if I complied with their demands, I might see him again before spring break. “If not, IT’S LAMPSHADE TIME!!!!!!!!”
Gingerbread Man was so relieved when we finally graduated and moved back to Europe. The first few years were peaceful and full of travels to exciting new pillows. But then we got married and that didn’t work out too well for him. My husband said he was ugly and objected to him lying on our bed. (That is how he ended up in the dark nightstand.) Later, when I showed him to my daughters, their reaction was along the lines of “Eeeewww!” Something tells me they won’t be fighting over who gets to inherit him one day. I may have to take him with me when I go.