Letters from Somnolescent October 18, 2022

Plushie Archaeology: Finding a New Old Friend

by mariteaux

I’m pretty sure everyone in the group likes plushies. Stuffed animals, whatever you call ’em. There’s a plushie channel in the server, and it’s constantly busy with us linking to plushies we find online, posting pictures of our own, and just generally being obsessed like we’re so good at.

Snowman...keeping warm(?)

This post is gonna be for a plushie closer to my heart. This is the story of how a snowman boy I’ve had from the day I was born was loved to death, rediscovered online, and rebought without a clue as to a brand or even an origin. I normally have a policy of not posting to the blog twice in a row, but this one’s more important than that. I might get a little personal.

Meet Snowman

Since before I could remember, I had a snowman under my arm. I was a little kid, so cleverly, I named him Snowman. (My naming prowess is still unmatched; see my dog fursona named “Setter”.) He was a squishy thing made out of a kinda vinyl material, very soft, cool to the touch, red and green stripes along his mittens and black hat, and black boots. Here’s a picture of me with him as a toddler:

Me, Snowman, and my dad
Don’t mind who’s holding me.

He was part of a whole fixation I had on them at an early age; I had picture books involving snowmen, I’ve owned multiple other snowman plushies, and some of the first characters I ever made at a crisp 7-8 years old were snowmen. (I’m pretty sure that fixation spilled over into my love of Oshawott when I got into Pokemon in high school, and then otters and mustelids beyond that. It’s all connected somehow in my head.)

Me at age 8 holding Snowman
Cammy face dox?????? (Now just imagine this boy telling you about Galaxian for the Atari.)

Snowman was everywhere I was. Every single night, he accompanied me to bed without complaint. I didn’t have friends until I was in middle school, but he was more than happy to keep me company as I doped around in my backyard, sun or snow. (He never melted, either.) Summer camp, he was right there on my bunk bed, and occasionally around the grounds too. I took him to school plenty of times (and home ec was a great excuse to try and fix up his many holes…).

Snowman with a guitar
Caby pointed out how cruel it was that he’s missing a hand and I put a guitar on him. I didn’t notice…

All the love and adventures started to get to him over the years. By 2007, one of his hands had fallen off. (He likely lost the other in the coming 3-4 years.) His scarf was so worn (I had a habit of rubbing it when I was stressed), I decided to snip it off completely. The material tore basically all over, but especially along his back, where folks tried their darndest to sew him back up. Problem being, the coarse hand-sewn stitches just created additional pressure on the delicate material, causing more tears and unsightly stitch marks. I’d rolled over him so much in my sleep that all his stuffing was clumped, so he’d been restuffed and took on a weird shape as a result.

Eventually, I decided he was just too dilapidated to really sleep with or play with and put him in storage to try and keep him from falling apart further. That was also a mistake! He’s since started growing mold, and his material is just yellowed and dirty. Here’s what he looks like at this moment:

Old Snowman looking...rough
“I’ve seen better days/I’ve been the star of many plays…”

Honestly, it just kind of makes me sad to see. I think to everyone else, he just looks loved to the point of death, but it felt like a bit of me had decayed to the point of being unsightly. I couldn’t really show people my boy, despite him meaning the world to me for many, many years growing up.

So I went online and tried to find another.

My failed attempts to find another

Here’s the issue, though. Snowman was bought before I was born, and by who is still a question in the family. We’re thinking one of my cousins, one who I haven’t seen in maybe 15 years and I wasn’t about to reach out just to ask about a plushie. He doesn’t have a tag or any identifying markings (least not that I ever remembered). He’s not from an instantly recognizable brand or anything, and snowmen are kinda generic iconography for the winter season anyway.

It was gonna be a needle in a haystack if I’ve ever seen one.

I did it all. I showed him off to the occasional internet person and wondered aloud where he came from. On one particularly desperate occasion, I went on eBay, looked up “snowman stuffed animal”, and searched through 25 pages fruitlessly. For years, no one, not me, and not the internet, could pinpoint where my boy came from or even anything kinda like him. I’d thought he was either an especially obscure plushie from some event, maybe a fair, or even special-made (which would’ve been really depressing to me, seeing the shape he’s in).

Caby and I eventually settled on potentially making our own of him or getting new material to try and rebuild the existing Snowman, and I went about my life, not thinking about him so I didn’t end up sad about how ruined he was again.

One fateful Friday group call later…

October 14th, 2022 proved pivotal. We’ve been having group calls every Friday at 5PM EST for weeks now, and they’re always a blast. Imagine me, Caby, dcb (who can finally join calls thanks to being at college), Savannah now (!), and Devon all streaming at the exact same time, chatting games, chatting bad Americanizations of British sitcoms, making fun of bad art and sending each other really good art at the same time, the works.

I’ve recently taken to getting a little bit sauced during these calls, and with the new plushies room in the server, I felt inspired enough to show off all the ones I’ve collected, careening around my room, falling over, and talking way too much to everyone’s amusement. Of course Snowman came out of storage briefly too, but this time, something hit Caby as she looked him over: he looked like a Puffalump!

A Puffalump
Puffalumps were these plushies made out of parachuting material in the 80s. Really, it’s the nose that best matches my boy.

To be clear, he isn’t a Puffalump, but he’s definitely got a similar material and shape. Could that be the way to find where all Snowman came from? She took a dive in while I absentmindedly chattered away. Google’s image search is rather good at finding images that are visually similar to each other, and somehow, some way–it found him, and she found him.

The listing for new Snowman on Poshmark
Something intensely amusing about the listing being for a “vintage 90s” plushie. He really does suit me, huh?

Someone was selling a Snowman on Poshmark. Amazingly, he was even tagged as a Puffalump.

Not only was he an exact match, but he even had details I didn’t remember on him, notably little strips of yarn at the tips of his scarf. Better still, he was in perfect condition. He was snow white and clean, the material wasn’t worn, his hands and scarf were still intact, his boots weren’t sewn together as the seam between them failed really early on in my life–and this one had an informational tag, proclaiming the brand as Chosun International.

The moment I saw it, I lost it. I’m man enough to admit to you, I cried. It was such a strange, strange feeling, a boy who only existed in photos and in my head, now sat in a box in my closet as a ruined lump of stitches, and someone was selling him in a condition better than in my earliest memories. I’d say “the price was right” at $25, but I would’ve paid double. He genuinely could not go to anyone but me.

I bought it the moment I saw it, and Caby kept me company on a separate call away from the group while I recovered. (I did return to the group call roughly twenty minutes later, and the celebration continued.)

He came to me surprisingly quick, just three days from halfway across the country in Austin. In fact, he actually showed up about an hour or so after I went to work that day, so even though it was only a six hour shift, as the night started to drag, I felt it stronger than ever. 10PM rolled around, we drove home, and in a plastic bag inside a mailer bag sat a new old friend. My mom gasped when she saw him; I couldn’t stop laughing and grinning like mad.

Wrapping up on these two

A day’s past, and he’s still on my desk, along with my original Snowman, who I think definitely deserved one last moment on display alongside him. Trys put it in a really touching way, like an elder next to his student. I dunno, something about that, I just love.

Old and new Snowman

I’m trying my best to not touch him as much as I can, because lordy I’m gonna preserve and protect this boy with my life, but it’s hard not to! He’s so comfortable to the touch, so plump and squishy, and his scarf even squeaks when I rub it in the exact same way I used to. (I’ve got a winter jacket whose sleeves are lined with the same sorta vinyl material, so I leave that for my rubbing needs if need be.)

Seeing the listing and seeing what Chosun was all known for, animals and promotional tie-in plushies (their Berenstain Bears seem to show up quite a bit when you look them up), I think this boy was some kind of festive decorative plushie that just happened to be given to me. It wouldn’t be the only one I’ve got like that–the Frosty the Snowman that sits in my room was a decoration too.

The new one’s gonna stay on my desk and I’m gonna stare at it a lot. Pick it up very gently and admire his lil big smile when I feel the urge, which is currently all the time. You might see him around in pictures. He’d make a really cute easter egg on my sites or something…

The original boy, I’m gonna try to give him one last surface washing with some warm water and soap, destuff him, and pick up some kind of vacuum-sealable bag for clothes and suchlike to store him in. The stuffing inside him isn’t original, so it’s not really a loss, and seeing him grow mold makes me feel like I really shouldn’t have him out in case he gets damaged further.

Snowman, as taken with the Photocam
Vintage 90s Snowman. Vintage 90s camera. Vintage 90s Cammy. (Vintage 90s inability to get good lighting with the PhotoCam.)

I’ve spent many years wishing I could transfer Snowman’s spirit into a new body, and with one accidental find on a group call, that finally happened. I can finally show you guys my very first friend. I can finally have him out on display. There’s a part of me that feels more whole again, and I know full well where he came from and who made him now, and that’s huge.

Tags: plushies,

About mariteaux

Somnolescent's webmaster with way too much to write about and a stack of CDs he'll never finish.

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