Stuy’s Ties With Plushies and More

Amidst the pandemic, Stuyvesant students and faculty look back on the childhood comfort items that have helped them through the stress.

Reading Time: 10 minutes

The pandemic is a time of great stress and anxiety for students and teachers alike. It is in these times of change that our childhood comfort items provide some much-needed consolation, whether it be a plushie, a piece of furniture, or even something intangible like music. Even if we no longer consider ourselves children, these items can transport us to simpler pre-pandemic times—a welcome respite from present-day stress.

Music (Carina Lee, sophomore)

Pitch, melody, and rhythm combined in a wonderful mixture, music is the item of choice for sophomore Carina Lee. At first, when Lee was asked if she owns any special objects, she seemed to be at a loss for words. “I don’t have anything really,” Lee hesitantly replied. Though she initially had trouble thinking of any concrete objects that she valued, she soon began talking about how her friend told her to watch a TV show near the beginning of quarantine. The shows and the new music that she listened to positively influenced her, especially throughout quarantine. “In general, [music] makes me less anxious,” Lee explained. “I guess while I’m listening to music or watching something, […] I get happier.” It may be hard to find concrete physical objects that bring comfort or are particularly special. However, there is an entirely different world of objects online. Whether it be games, music, TV shows, or movies, they have the ability to provide just as much comfort as any physical object would.

White Desk (Cassie Fenwick, sophomore)

Unlike Lee, sophomore Cassie Fenwick was able to think of a comfort object almost immediately. She talked about her sticker-decorated pink and white desk that she has used since she was six years old. What she loves about her desk is the familiarity of it. “[I’ve] always had it; it’s just like always been there for a while,” Fenwick described. “I mean, it’s just my desk.” She recalled an anecdote about her sister cleaning the desk: “She cleaned it recently […] because she hated [that] it was dirty so [often],” Fenwick said, laughing. “That’s real dedication. I would be like, ‘Oh your desk is dirty,’ but no way would I ever clean her desk.”

Even though Fenwick’s parents asked her if she wanted a new desk many times, she always refused. “I just feel like it’s kind of a waste because it still works, it’s not broken, and it’s just so familiar to me […] I love it; it’s nice.” The idea of having memorabilia elicits a positive response, but Fenwick also considered the practicality of it: “It’s nice to have them; [they’re] familiar objects, but eventually, they’ll probably break or get […] kind of ratty, like stuffed animals,” she responded. Fenwick elaborated on her point by connecting it to the worth of salvaging broken memorabilia. She explained that not all memorabilia need to be kept and the situation depends on the object’s usefulness to you now. “I think it depends on what level of sentimentality it has; like if it’s […] a nice stuffed animal from your childhood [that] you went through some dark times with […] [and] when you were a little bit older it helped you, and it still helps you, […] then I think it’s worth it,” Fenwick said.

For Fenwick, the desk represents the perfect balance because it maintains its usefulness as well as its nostalgia.

Teddy Bears (Sunny Bok, senior)

Senior Sunny Bok has a large collection of comfort items—all teddy bears from her childhood—but has two favorites out of them. The first came in a set of two that her grandmother bought for her and her sister before they were born. She originally owned the boy bear but later swapped with her sister after her sister smashed the girl bear’s nose in. “Whenever my friends came over, they’d be like, ‘What happened to that teddy bear’s nose?’” she reminisced, laughing.

Bok’s second bear is named Cream, a bear she got in fifth grade at a school trip to a Build-A-Bear Workshop. Though Cream wasn’t made correctly in the end, Bok found a way to turn the flaw into a perk. “The person [making it] forgot to stitch my bear, so the back’s just open; there’s stuffing coming out,” Bok explained. “I realized that I could put a flashlight inside the teddy bear and use it as a lamp. If I turned it on, the whole teddy bear would glow, and I used that as a [reading] lamp for the next couple months, and then the flashlight died.” For Bok, Cream brings back memories of staying up late at night to read books, something she used to enjoy often, much to her parents’ chagrin.

In elementary school, Bok used to be slightly embarrassed by her collection, but she has since grown to appreciate how they have influenced her growth. “Now that I’m older, I think it’s better to have that kind of nature, you know, that kind of caring and protective nature,” she said. While she admits that holding on to childhood comfort items can be somewhat of a setback, she feels it’s a good habit to keep some tangible memorabilia, especially in such a digitally-driven world. “[Keeping physical objects] is different from the digital world [be]cause we all have pictures now, and we can look back [at] pictures and be like, ‘Hey, remember this?’ [or] ‘Hey, remember that?’ But with teddy bears, or whatever it is, it’s visible. You can feel it. And I think it’s a different sort of comfort you get from physical items than [what] you get from digital photos, videos, [and] whatnot,” Bok said.

CJ7 Plush (Kelly Guo, senior)

For senior Kelly Guo, her comfort item is actually both a movie and a plush of a character from that movie, both of which are named CJ7. Released in 2008, “CJ7” is a Hong-Kong-Chinese film that centers around a poor boy and his father who stumble across a cute alien with many technologically-advanced objects. Guo watched the movie when she was around five years old, and she got the accompanying plush of the alien around the same time. However, she didn’t really understand the film until her second time watching it when she was older. “I connected more with the characters [be]cause the boy, well he’s in elementary school and he lives with his dad, and obviously his mom is gone and that kind of relates to me with my mom [and] how she’s a single parent,” Guo explained.

The movie also contained a message which resonated with Guo: life will always get better. “[The boy’s] living situation is really bad. [He and his father] have a shelter, but they’re practically homeless. And I remember there was this scene where he wanted this new robot toy that was trending, [but] his dad couldn’t afford it, and he got really upset,” Guo described. “I feel like it’s just a really lighthearted movie [from which] people can just learn that life always gets better.”

The CJ7 plush itself is important to Guo for a different reason. “I was born [in the United States], and then I went back to China, so this is one of the only things I have left that I brought from China to here,” Guo said. “It’s just one of the oldest things I own, basically, so I guess that’s why I’m so attached to it. I don’t think I would ever throw it away.”

ChiChi (Peter Brooks, mathematics and computer science teacher)

Mathematics and computer science teacher Peter Brooks’s comfort item is a stuffed panda named ChiChi. His wife got it a long time ago for his daughter Abby, and Brooks has had ChiChi for about 27 years. When questioned on where the name ChiChi came from, Brooks commented, “I don’t think ChiChi knows […] So it’s lost in the midst of time.” However, Brooks reasoned that this name likely came from “ChiChi” being easier for Abby to pronounce when she said, “I want ChiChi now,” or “Why isn’t ChiChi here?” Though ChiChi would have preferred the name “George Foreman the Fourth,” Brooks reasoned that “ChiChi was alright.”

With regards to his children, Brooks added, “It was only the older daughter, Abby, [who] was attached to ChiChi.”

He gave life to ChiChi by translating what ChiChi was saying: “I can tell when Abby is around or when my dad is around or my mom is around […] just sort of by smelling the wind as it passes by. And it’s really very nice; […] it’s a great comfort to be [...] snuggling in a bed with someone who really likes you,” ChiChi said, according to Brooks. Brooks explained all that information was said in about two words. “[ChiChi’s] language is very compact,” he clarified.

Brooks further described how he would talk about ChiChi in virtual or in-person computer science classes. He remarked, “I’d have to bring ChiChi to class, which means that I’d have to have it […] sitting on my desk, and my colleagues would see I’m there with a stuffed toy, and […] [there are] all the issues that [it] brings up. But […] this way, only my class can see that I have ChiChi around. And he’s a comfort to me.” He furthered this point by saying, “There’s a problem with fuzzy animals and my sense of manhood, but I make peace with it.”

In addition, Brooks translated a message from ChiChi about his current life in quarantine: “I’m not the young panda I used to be, and things get dirty, […] washing is a chore. And so [Brooks and his family] just stick me into the washing machine, and that is really just bad news.” Brooks elaborated that “[ChiChi]’s not always in a great mood now that he spends most of his time looking at the opposite wall.”

Toward the end of the interview, Brooks delivered a message from ChiChi for all of ChiChi’s loyal and devoted fans. “Keep those cards and letters coming,” ChiChi said. “And send some bamboo.” ChiChi then gave advice on how to send the bamboo: “The post office will [send it] if you take a very large container, one of those maps containers, and just fill it up with bamboo shoots.”

However, in terms of acquiring bamboo, Brooks advised against taking scaffolding that is used for construction. “Try not to take that, okay?” he said. “Especially when people are walking on it.”

Puppy Stuffie (Josephine Lee, junior)

Junior Josephine Lee’s case presents a stuffed animal that she has had almost since birth. She disclosed, “I have a stuffed dog that one of my mom’s very close friends gave [me].” The stuffie is a small black dog named Puppy.

Lee reminisced, “I used to carry it around everywhere, [even though] I don’t actually remember, but my parents tell me that.” Due to her constant attachment to it, her mom had a preventative measure put in place. Lee elaborated, “My mom got a duplicate of [Puppy] just in case I lost it […] [so] there would be a backup.” However, Lee has not made much use of the duplicate, except for one instance: “Apparently, once I dropped [Puppy] in a puddle,” Lee explained. “Then I had to use [the duplicate] when [Puppy] was in the wash.” After this, the duplicate has been living in her closet. “I always still keep [Puppy] on my bed,” she said.

Lee continued by describing how Puppy has lived an interesting life by following her around in her travels. “I usually pack him, [...] so he’s been to like Italy and China. He’s been around the world,” Lee explained.

Though Lee still has Puppy today, she expressed a different view on keeping sentimental items. “Sentimental items shouldn’t be kept […] so that you’re clinging onto the past and you can’t live in the present, and when you look at it, all you can think [of shouldn’t be about] how much you want to be in the past,” Lee reasoned. “But I think that if it helps you cope with bad moments […] or if it brings you comfort, then you should keep it.”

Lee concluded by laughing while saying, “The best part about this interview is probably that my mom got a replacement.”

Scarf (Sarah Ibrahim, sophomore)

For sophomore Sarah Ibrahim, an object that holds a special place in her childhood is her grandmother’s scarf. “I grew up with no grandparents. They all died before my parents got married,” Ibrahim explained. “I remember one day I was bored, so I was helping my mom clean, and I found this scarf. I found the scarf really pretty, so I stole it from her. [My mom] sat me down and told me some stories about my grandparents and her life back in India.”

While listening to the stories, Ibrahim was able to draw connections between her grandmother and her own mother. “[My mom talked] about how [my grandmother] would never say no to anyone and how the house was always full of people. My grandma was the type to wear these raggedy clothes so that her children could wear the expensive stuff. My mom’s still like that,” Ibrahim said. Though she has never met her grandmother, being able to have her scarf is a way to form a relationship with her. “It’s a way to connect with my past that I don’t know much about,” Ibrahim said.

More than vicarious connections, however, Ibrahim was able to build her own personal connections with the scarf. “I would make up stories about [people] and pretend I could see them in the clothes,” Ibrahim explained. “It was like I [had] people, even though I don’t know them, cheering me on and still there with me in a way.” With the scarf and her imagination, Ibrahim was able to fill her childhood with play that she still appreciates to this day. “When you’re feeling down, something from your childhood [can always] light you up. Remember when I had fun running around with a piece of cloth? No tests, nothing?” Ibrahim said, laughing.

In the end, however, Ibrahim believes that holding on to objects from one’s childhood is valuable. “There’s no harm in it,” she explained. “It brings back a lot of memories that you might have forgotten as you [got] older. My long-term memory is so bad. That’s why I like to keep objects so that I can [remember] better.