Memorabilia: Flowers the Lion

A stuffed toy lion made of yellow cotton printed with red flowers. He has a big grin with blue teeth, swirly red cheeks, and a mane made of loops of sewn cotton strips

Throughout my childhood, I cherished my collection of stuffed animals. In Bangkok, they slept with me every night, arranged along the side of my bed in a painstaking order that I was daily upset that our maid disarranged when she made the bed every morning. My animals all had names and personalities. They kept me company through the lonely nights and soothed me when I woke up from nightmares or thunderstorms.

Flowers was one of the first that we bought in Thailand, from what was then one of few handicraft stores. Thailand has a rich tradition of handicrafts of all kinds, but I believe these stuffed toys were a new innovation, intended for tourists. Another example I owned was a water buffalo, with little floppy legs, a great big head with huge (soft) horns, and a wooden bell around his neck – a miniature of the ones used on actual water buffaloes.

As you can see on Flowers, hairy features like a lion’s mane were made from loops of sewn cotton ribbons. Later, as polyester yarn began to be imported (I suppose), the artisans began using that instead. At age 9, I did not approve of this shoddy and inauthentic craftsmanship!

All my stuffed animals moved to the US with us in 1972, and I slowly acquired a few more. When we moved to Bangladesh, most of my collection went to stay with my friend Anna, whose mother gave them to Goodwill. I was upset about this – I had thought they were in safekeeping with Anna and I would eventually get them back. A few of the most important had traveled with me, however, and Flowers was one of those. At this point he’s almost the only survivor of the original collection. I’ve bought a few others here and there in adulthood, but stuffed animals are no longer as much my thing.

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