I’M not the girlie type of girl. You won’t find me in Girl Guides, but in the National Cadet Corps. Sewing doesn’t appeal to me, but making a burger does. As a tomboy in the family, the youngest of three girls, I was always in T-shirt, shorts, pants, never ever skirts, except the ones I had to wear to school.
Barbie dolls never appealed to me. My kind of toys were just the kind that boys loved: light sabers, Yugi-O cards, Game-Boys, Tamagochi, Power Rangers, Ultra-Man. Pretty cool stuff! These were all the rage for a good six years from the time I was six to twelve. It was a time when the Internet hadn’t yet consumed our lives. After that, they were all just a figment of a childhood memory.
One toy, however, is still very much a part of my life. It’s a soft toy, a Doraemon, that Japanese cartoon character that looks like some unidentifiable beer-bellied whiskered creature, perhaps a raccoon, although it is technically a cat, an earless cat with a dullard’s face, but a mind of a genius from the 22nd century.
My Doraemon has outlived every single toy I had once been crazy about. It has been with me for 12 years now. I got it as a present for my fifth birthday from Auntie Yin, my father’s younger sister, whom we merely call Yee, a diminutive of “Ah Yee,” or “Auntie” in Chinese. This makes Yee the most special relative among the complex network of relatives in my family.
One of the coolest things about my soft toy is that I never had to give it a name because it already had one, although I called it the Thai way, Doh-Ray-Mon, rather than the purer and more correct Japanese way: Doh-Rah-Ay-Mon.
Doraemon is so special that when I moved from Trang in Thailand to Singapore to start life and school here in 2009, he had the privilege of traveling with me in my backpack rather than in the two huge checked-in luggages.
If Doraemon had actually enrolled in school here, this year, he would be sitting for his PSLE. In soft toy years, Doraemon is considered old, and he is. His bright, light blue is now a dirty-gray blue, and his injuries are numerous. His red pom-pom tail has long since fallen off, so has his red pom-pom nose. On his right shoulder sits a crudely executed one-inch stitch in yellow thread just because I was too lazy to hunt down a matching light blue thread. Now, even that stitch is fast wearing out, not helped at all that a tiny hole has appeared right next to it.
Over the years, Doraemon has become rather egg-headed and flat-faced. In his younger days, his head was rounder. After having tossed him in the washing machine whenever he gets dirty—I’ve lost count how many times—he has become more elongated. That, in no way, diminishes his cuteness.
And by cuteness, I’m referring to a million things: he smells nice, like detergent and Downy; he smells like my home and my bedroom; and he smells like me. He’s also my favorite pillow, my favorite foot rest and arm rest, my dependable drool absorber, my toss-him-into-bed friend, and he’s the one sole buddy who never whines or protests when I do stupid things like drool on my history textbook, go to bed without brushing my teeth, or leave balls of snot-filled tissue paper lying around the house or unwashed dishes in the sink overnight, sometimes even for a week.
You see why Doraemon has outlasted every other toy I once loved? For having lived so long, he is more than just a soft toy. He is a reminder of a childhood gone by, of doting Yee and my cousins, the big-time bullies and candy raiders. Here, Doraemon was my hero, my savior. His belly pouch was the perfect place to hide my precious wee packets of Ring Pop Berry Blast, safe from my villain cousins.
Jiji Setavoraphan, Secondary Four
For more essays by Jiji, visit Jiji Writes.
This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2016 exam, Question #1:
Describe a childhood toy or a game you played which still means a great deal to you. Why is it so important?