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You’ve Always Got a Friend in Me | Aimee Han

Spoiler Warning - This article contains spoilers for “Toy Story 3”

There is nothing more indicative of my childhood coming to a close than the tears streaming down my face as the saturated animation of “Toy Story 3” on my computer screen begins to blur together. And on that one particular Autumn evening, all I do is sob uncontrollably. How can one not feel the emotional pangs in the scene where Andy makes one last stop before he leaves for college and passes on his favorite toy, Woody, to a little girl to take care of? The simple answer is that you cannot. And if you don’t feel those emotional pangs, you’re either heartless or repressing the fact that you are no longer the little girl getting those secondhand toys, but you are soon going to be Andy going off to college.

Those toys, from Woody to Buzz Lightyear to even the dinosaur toy whose name I can never remember, were not only Andy’s best friends, but they in some ways were symbolic of ours. I admittedly still sleep with my favorite stuffed animal who lays in the corner of my bed; her name is Sweet Pea and she is a Webkinz pig with white flowers on her fur. When I was younger, my mom sewed her a customized denim backpack and lunchbox, and I made her notebooks and food out of tiny pieces of paper. All of this so that I could bring her to school with me and be prepared to learn. I may have outgrown my attachment issues from this stuffed animal, but I could never just leave her in a box like Andy does with his toys. But rewatching this film at Andy’s age is realizing that I can’t take her off to college either. This stuffed animal deserves to be given the same love and comfort it had provided me throughout all my childhood; I can’t just leave her in a lifeless cardboard box. Undeniably, I sound crazy because how could an inanimate object have feelings? “Toy Story 3” isn’t a real-life film (unless you want it to be), but the object is symbolic of my childhood innocence that undoubtedly remains a lively spirit in the form of a stuffed animal.

And what tugs at the heartstrings even more is knowing that just one random day, we stopped picking up these toys and we let go of them entirely. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even remember the last time I played on the Webkinz website with this toy beside me or when I would set up playdates and sleepovers with other kids with Webkinz. Yet in the dusty old photo albums I discover hidden in the cabinets of my living room, there are countless photographs of me smiling with ease and holding onto this stuffed animal ever so tightly. I can barely recall these specific moments, but all I know for a fact is that I loved Sweet Pea with my entire heart. And then, just one random day, I woke up and realized that I am no longer a kid, sheltered from the gravity of current events, scraping my knees on the blacktop surface of the playground, or struggling to tie my own shoes with the light-up lights on them. Ever since, Sweet Pea has laid in the corner of my bed, patiently waiting for the moment that she gets picked up, embraced, and taken to school again.

So, before I turn to the page to my 18th chapter of life, I would like to dedicate a lot of the things I am hopefully about to accomplish to that little, wonderful stuffed animal. I wouldn’t have made it out of elementary school without her. I hope that the words written on this screen pay full tribute to what she has done for me. Admittedly, my circumstance does not yet entirely parallel Andy passing down Woody before he leaves for college because I haven’t even finished my college applications. But it is also because I am waiting for that right moment to pass Sweet Pea into the tiny little hands of another young kid (who isn’t addicted to their iPad) ready to play with her once more.

But to the childhood spirit left inside that soft, baby pink stuffed animal, I hope it has always got a friend in me.

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