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Dinkum And Leppy

By LC Van Savage

In this week of gift giving, like most of us I’ve had to think a lot about gifts for all ages and have concluded after much deep thought that frankly, I don’t like to give baby presents for Christmas or because babies just got themselves birthed for any reason. Now don’t misunderstand, I really like babies. I’ve had some and I really liked them a lot. They’re just absolutely fine. Wonderful in fact. It’s not that. It’s just that when they’re born, or even before they’re born, everyone showers gifts on the little weenies, and while those gifts are often needed and greatly appreciated, I just refuse to give a baby a baby gift. Sounds chintzy, right? Frankly I’d rather give gifts to the already-there siblings or to the frantic parents. They really appreciate them!

But wait. Here’s the story; I personally think babies get too much baby stuff when they’re still in Stage One Prune, and I for one don’t like to be responsible for turning those innocents into materialistic little greedheads. No, it’s not for me to bedazzle them with more receiving blankets when they’ve already received 31, along with 46 pairs of onesies and enough booties to shoe a large colony of octopi. Nope. The gift I give has to be different from all that infant stuff. But what?

Not stuffed animals. Why does everyone give newborns stuffed animals? The babies have no idea what on earth they are, they don’t do anything like give milk or change a diaper, they’re just a big blob of fuzz and they don’t even move, so what’s the point? I think giving stuffed animals to a new baby is a cop-out because the giver couldn’t think of anything else to give. Or, that the giver fell in love with the little creature in the store and just couldn’t resist buying it, so in fact that cute stuffed toy is really for the giver and not the newbie givee, right? I wonder if those givers ever secretly resent having to give up that sweet little stuffed thing to a squalling, ungrateful newborn. OK, I’ll confess I’ve felt that way occasionally.

I think stuffed animals should be given to older kids, toddlers, when they can imbue them with life, name them, take them everywhere, talk to them in bed at night, love and protect them and feel protected by them.

I have a younger brother named Stuart Richardson. He too was given a lot of stuffed animals when he was born, but none of them took. However, when he was about three, he finally adopted two. One was a leopard he named “Leppy.” Leppy had button eyes which eventually fell off and my little brother was ever so grateful when I sewed new eyes onto Leppy’s battered face with thick black darning thread, just two buttons with huge lumpy centers, but at least they never fell off. Today my little brother is a seriously palmy stockbroker, but would he return the favor by giving me just the occasional wee tip on what’s hot and what’s not? Oh, noooo! Course not. Irrational insider trading issues or something. I should’ve let Leppy just go blind.

Stuie’s other beloved stuffed pet was of all things, a platypus. His name was “Dinkum” which in Australia I think means honest or genuine or something. Dinkum was really adorable, and my little brother took him everywhere. Dinkum was a good replica of a platypus, an animal that’s continued to fascinate me since long before Dinkum got discarded the day my brother went to Yale. I really don’t know what all the fuss is about the origins of the platypus. Just because it’s a furry, web-footed, flat tailed egg-laying mammal with a bill, is no big mystery. It should be pretty obvious to anyone that a few zillion centuries ago, a lonely duck and a lonely beaver met on a lonely river. A couple of nice sunsets, a few delightful dry river martinis, and bammo, any duck in a storm as they say, and heck, all beavers look pretty good after dark. The obvious offspring of that one night stand turned out to be a platypus, although I can’t think how the name “platypus” is at all a blending of “beaver” and “duck” but there’s no accounting for how the minds of biologists work. Later I guess more beavers came along and met up with more ducks and well, the platypus population just exploded and that’s how platypi got invented. Simple, right?

So from now on, I’m going to be giving all newborns something they can enjoy when they’re older, like a state of the art potty-chair or a good bicycle pump. OK, maybe also a stuffed toy, if I can find another Dinkum. Anyone out there know if there’s a platypus store anywhere around? Email me, OK?

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