I turned 26 this past Tuesday, another year deeper into my adulthood. Bills arrive faithfully in stiff white envelopes and are paid before their deadlines. I’ve started using words like “budget” and “savings.” At night I floss my teeth diligently, remembering my mother’s warning about gum disease. When at the supermarket I buy heads of broccoli and cherry tomatoes, containers of Greek yogurt and almonds, whole bell peppers, foods that are supposed to boost my immune system.
Despite these small but significant shifts into adulthood, Cordy is still with me. My beloved stuffed teddy bear originally arrived as a gift for my older brother, who was just a toddler when my twin sister and I came home from the hospital. Perhaps the bear was meant to keep him company while my parents fretted over changing and bottle-feeding their new twins. When I was two, legend has it that I discovered Cordy on the floor of my brother’s bedroom and swiftly declared him my own. A teddy bear that was likely to be discarded or stuck in a dark trash bag for donation became the mascot of my youth. I named him after a picture book character named Corduroy, who spent 12 pages searching for a new button to attach to his overalls.
My Corduroy didn’t have overalls, but sweaters: beige knit with a Christmas tree in the center, blue with a pink heart for Valentine’s Day (my grandmother even sewed him a pair of grey cotton pajamas). On Halloween I dressed him in a pumpkin hat that I tied under his chin with yarn. When I was in kindergarten I promptly dropped Cordy into a public mailbox, his body disappearing into the box’s gaping mouth, landing with a soft thlunk, his fall cushioned by bills and greeting cards and love letters. An hour was spent as my mother begged the post office to retrieve him. She explained to me Cordy had no stamp or address — without these, he’d never find his way back to me.
On our annual family trip to Disneyworld, Cordy vanished a second time. He had been inadvertently gathered up in my bed sheets and ferried away to the resort’s housekeeping floor. To compensate for his absence, the concierge gave me a plush Minnie Mouse doll. But her weight on my lap was hollow, flimsy, and her little red bloomers seemed somehow garish. She stared at me with flat plastic eyes as I cried the entire flight home.
Miraculously, Cordy returned to us a week later, arriving in a cardboard box from Orlando. The high-powered industrial washing machine had caused his stuffing to migrate to the left side of his body, while the right side was hollow. He was taken to be repaired somewhere in Massachusetts. I insisted we drive him there, forgoing the post office, terrified I’d be separated from him again. In the tumultuous throes of middle school, dealing with cliques and adolescent anxiety, Cordy remained wrapped tightly to my body, his nose placed squarely on my collarbone.
Cordy came with me to college too, where he steadily observed the quiet habits that constituted my college life: dinners of canned soup heated in the microwave, notes printed carefully on index cards, shampoo and soap kept in a plastic translucent shower caddy, weekends of lugging pillowcases of laundry up and down the stairs until my shoulders were sore. When my first boyfriend broke up with me, it was Cordy I reached for, and whom I tucked under my chin dreamily when I met my second boyfriend.
Cordy is in Italy now, too, and travels back and forth with me twice a year when I return to home. He has crossed the ocean just as many times as I have, tucked safely away in my carry-on bag between a novel and my passport. Once, after passing through airport security, I rearranged my bag, briefly removing Cordy from his resting place. A handsome guy around my age stopped and stared, puzzled, eyebrows knitted. I didn’t care.
Cordy has recently begun showing signs of aging. His nose is missing. Patches of fur are worn away, and I recently had to re-glue one of his eyes. I wash him from time to time in my bathroom sink, still wary of washing machines. Afterwards he’s propped up in front of my desk fan where he dries throughout the evening. When I sleep, Cordy’s presence isn’t a necessity, but preferred. I’ll ruffle through my comforter, look for him under my bed, or briefly scan the floor to find him. If he’s nowhere to be found, I’ll fall asleep sleep regardless. In the morning I wake up, my arm curled tightly to my chest as if he were there, this one bit of my childhood, unyielding.