It was July 8, 1989. He sat on one of the long tables at Chuck E Cheese surrounded by other gifts. He wasn’t wrapped like them though. I was five years old. And it was love at first sight.
This guy, Ozzie, has been with me through most all of my adventures in the last 25 years. It’s obvious in his appearance. What used to be long fluffy fur is now matted and balding, especially around his neck where I have always wrapped my arm while falling asleep. His lips are still stained from the bananas, milk and sugar I used to feed him as a small girl. One arm is still disconnected. I was forced to cut it off so I could bring a part of him with me when I went to Europe, for his body was too large for backpacking.
Many have kidnapped him over the years, and he and I were the targets of many slumber party pranks back in the day. There was that masking tape episode when I found him hung from the ceiling. And that time he went “missing” at the gorge during the DMB concert weekend, and my wonderful friends tried to help me find him. “I think I saw him down by the river,” they’d say. And I’d be down by some stream trying to find him while they all laughed. “Oh no, I think he’s hanging out in the van.” I’d been all over the gosh damned campground by the time I found him, hidden some place. (Yah, I still remember who you all are!)
Over the years, he’s absorbed my tears, cushioned my head, given me comfort. He was there that first night in my new dorm room when life seemed unfamiliar and big in a way I had not yet known. He was there in the passenger seat when we left on our birthday for a new life in Southern California. And he was there again when I returned to the PNW years later. On the day I turned 20 (he 15), we sat together in a plane flying over the Pacific to Sydney without a clue of what would happen next. He was the only thing that made me feel I was not alone when I was the farthest I had ever been from anyone I had ever known.
This guy has been to dozens of cities around the world and crossed paths with countless people throughout the last twenty five years. I couldn’t have done it without him.