Once upon a time, there was a woman named Donna who worked at the front desk of a dentist’s office and who loved Beanie Babies. She had about a million of the things – they were all over her desk, and all over the window where patients signed in, and all over the counter where patients came to pay when they were done. Her car was like a traveling Beanie Baby shop. Her house was like a Beanie Baby warehouse.
For Donna, every new Beanie Baby was more precious than the one before. She never got sick of the things. Each new acquisition brought her such joy. She would unpack, say, a seasonal Boo Baby, and hold it up to the light as if appraising a diamond. Then, she would coo and squeal and crush the Beanie Baby to her as if it were her own real baby. She would show it off proudly to everyone in the office and to each client that came in, and she’d call her mother and her sister and her friends from the local chapter of the Beanie Baby Buddies Official Beanie Babies Club and tell everyone the story of how she’d found that Baby and what great condition it was in and what she’d paid for it, and what it meant in the overall context of the production and collection of Beanie Babies.
One day, she won an eBay bid for a very rare Princess Diana Beanie Baby and you’d have thought she’d won the lottery, been carried out of the dentist’s office by Richard Gere, and been raptured all at once.
Needless to say, her coworkers in the office did not think incredibly well of Donna. They hated hearing about the freaking Beanie Babies, they hated seeing the things everywhere, they’d be happy if they never heard another damn Beanie Baby story again, and they pitied and looked down on Donna’s bizarre, single-minded devotion to the things, her unquestioning and never-ending delight and immersion in Beanie Baby collection and culture.
They thought Donna was pretty dumb.
But even though they never knew it about each other, every single person who worked in that dentist’s office, and a number of the patients as well, had all had a singular experience. Every one of them had, on some particularly dark, bad day – a day when something had gone wrong in their personal lives, or when work had seemed particularly overwhelming or soul-killing, or when they’d suddenly looked at their lives and wondered what the hell they were living them for – they had done a very peculiar thing.
On their way home, they’d pulled into the parking lot of a nearby Hallmark store. Without even really being aware of their own actions, they’d entered the store and drifted over to the Beanie Baby section. They’d picked up a tiger, or a unicorn, or a bear, or a pumpkin. They’d squeezed it, put it back, picked up another one. Then, they’d carried a Baby over to the counter and paid for it.
Back in their cars, they’d sat for awhile with the Beanie Baby on their lap, staring at it intently, as if waiting and hoping for it to activate.