When I was little, I had a grey teddy bear. At least, I thought he was grey. One day my mother washed my best bear friend while I wasn’t looking (sneaky grown-ups). And when I found him in my toy box, he had turned white.
I thought he was dead. I cried. I grieved. Between sobs I asked my mother, “What did you do to him?!” The world was ending.
Nothing my mother could say would make me believe that he actually started out white—that the layers of mottled grey had been added by years upon years of tree climbing, hide-and-seek, and bedtime stories. Apparently, my mother had quite the challenge even getting the bear away from me long enough to wash him in the first place. Fortunately, the scorn of a three year old is easily forgiven—but never forgotten.
In college, I was a nanny. The six children I watched had their own stuffed best friends: a bear, a bunny, a dinosaur, a kitty, an elephant, and (another) bear, respectively. Each one of the well-loved plushies had accidents. Bunny’s ear needed surgery. Elephant’s nose got a busted seam. Dinosaur suffered from some loose scales.
Replacement wouldn’t do. They had to be repaired. Fortunately, my mother taught me how to sew. And I became the emergency bear surgeon. Each child would nervously hand over their stuffed animal. And then they sat, anxiously watching me patching up their best friend. Stitch by stitch each friend was restored, given a squeeze, and dragged off to another play-time.
Now that many of my friends have children, I make a lot of toys and puppets. I strive to give each character life. Each is a unique, one-of-a-kind creature. I want to make best friends, not just stuffed toys.
With each toy or puppet I make, I include a card that informs its new parent that I will happily repair any damage that happens throughout the years. Every now and again, I get a call. A hobby horse lost its reigns. Francus’ blue monster eyes popped out. The puppet show left Honk without a nose.
Faithful friends come back to me for a visit, a few stitches—a 20,000 hug check-up. In the eyes of a child, these repairs are life-and-death. To them, these creatures are real. No other animal, or toy, or treat can take their place.
As with any repair, there are environmental imperatives: extending the lifecycle of a consumer good and preventing environmental impact of the waste. These efforts are noble, but when a small child greets you with crocodile tears and an injured stuffie, those imperatives never cross your mind: It’s about the child.
My bear, which survived many days of intense love, is still sitting on my shelf. He has been restuffed, sewn, had his nose replaced, and is still a little pale. But he is my bear and no other bear will do.
We have a toy repair database on iFixit, but it could use more guides. So if you repair toys like me, grab a camera the next time your little one has a busted toy that needs repair. Share what you know! We guarantee, some child out there will be very glad you did.