When I was young, I had a fascination with panda bears. I had several stuffed pandas that I loved. It’s funny looking back that I collected teddy bears that I often slept with at night as a child. I had one named Andy Panda and one named Sandy Panda. I don’t remember the names of the others, but Sandy was always my favorite. Whenever I was feeling down, Sandy was always there to cheer me up. She and my cat Calico never failed to be my faithful companions when I was sick or scared. Calico was an actual real cat and the sweetest animal I have ever known. When it comes to my cats, Victoria and I had a special bond, but she could be mean to other people. She tried to kill my grandmama’s chihuahua one time. Isabella is a one-person cat who is more persistent than any cat I’ve ever had. She does not understand the words “No” or “Move,” and she can be very temperamental at times. She is also a murderess and torturer when she finds a mouse. I won’t even describe some of the horrors I woke to occasionally in my old apartment.
Pandas, though, were a fascination of mine growing up. I wanted so badly to go to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and see Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, two giant pandas given to the United States as gifts by the government of China following President Richard Nixon’s visit in 1972. Sadly, Ling-Ling died suddenly from heart failure in 1992, and Hsing-Hsing died in 1999 due to painful kidney failure. I didn’t get to visit Washington until three years ago when I went for work, and I got to see very little of the city. I wouldn’t see my first panda in real life until sometime around 2012 when I got the chance to see the Giant Pandas at Zoo Atlanta. Even as a grown man in my thirties, I was so excited to get to see real pandas. It’s the only time I have ever seen live pandas, but it was a memorable experience.
Did any of you have a stuffed animal that loved? What brought you comfort when you were sick or scared as a child? To be honest, I wish I still had Sandy sometimes. I loved that bear.