From Cotton to Concrete
A lot of us grew up in a Zoo. Our Zoos were filled with colorful cotton created animal interpretations. I was a peculiar Zoo keeper, cataloging each animal by type and color. I had everything from snakes to monkeys, cats to hippos. They were the pride of my life, my childhood badge of honor. At my Zoo’s height I cared for over 100 unique animals, thanks to my father’s skill at quarter claw games. Then at its apex, feeling pressure from those around me, I leveled my zoo for the sake of “growing up. Turning my colorful cotton fantasy world into a harsh concrete world.
What tells us it is time to grow up? My descent into growing up might have started earlier than most. Around 11 or 12 I began to feel a pull to grow up. At this age our school shopping included less colorful objects, we are told to act our age, curiosity is viewed as annoying. At this point we are directed to the train station to grown up land, told it will be a bumpy ride, but that if we are good people we will come out a productive member of society.
Even our entertainment is geared at forcing us into clumsy spiral of to adulthood. TV shows marketed for us are about high schoolers and their trial and error with growing up and relationships. The mainstream music geared towards teens is mostly about relationships, and we question why girls at this age start to change their dreams from president to finding their dream boy. For me, at this time my Zoo became less a symbol of myself and more of a symbol of being a child. I needed to start to learning to live in the “real” world.
Like many tweens, I rebelled against my most loyal friends. The lucky ones were simply tossed in the pit of my closet, most were packed into trash bags being, “given to needy less fortunate kids.” Unfortunately, there was nothing to fill their space, physically and emotionally. I learned that growing up was about empty walls that once held colorful creatures of love and creativity.
It would have been peculiar at points in my life to have to tote my Zoo from place to place. Bringing dates home would have been awkward, “Please don’t mind the hundreds of plastic and cloth eyes watching us.” I question how many dates would have stayed interested, but it would have been an interesting social experiment!
Luckily, I saved a few key Zoo members. These ragged worn cloth animals are my prizes now. They hold high places in my heart and can count on having a home with me until my death or some sort of stuffed animal eating zombie apocalypse. There are a few new members of to my cotton filled family. They may not hold the same sway over my heart (yet) but each of them was given to me by someone I love. Because of this, they are accepted into the pack and celebrated for their uniqueness.
In my adult life, I refuse to subscribe to a grown up philosophy that requires empty walls where creative colorful love once stood. Maybe this is a refusal to accept being a “grown up” or maybe it is materialism at its worst however, the few cotton souls I now possess stand as a memorial and reminder. As adults we think little of requiring that children should begin to grow up. Stripping them of their childish belongings, we bombard them with messages that they needs to grow up. Yet, we complain how hard the world is and how our golden days where the very days that we are stripping away from other children.