What the Burros Taught Me

My plushy muse.

A long time ago, years before my son was born, my wife, Ellen, bought herself a stuffed Eeyore doll at the Disney Store. Her plan was to snuggle it while she slept. It turned out to be the perfect size and shape for someone who sleeps in the fetal position.

So, for the first time since I was seven, a stuffed animal was now resting on my bed. And, well, I guess I regressed.

I soon gave Eeyore a voice and a personality that bore little resemblance to the morose Milne/Disney creation. In the beginning, the persona I created was solely designed to make my wife laugh. As time went on, however, Eeyore – my Eeyore – became more textured and complex.

Eeyore never left the bed ­– so he became a self-appointed Bed Guardian, keeping watch while we were out. Upon our return home from the store or wherever, he would report to Ellen how, during our absence, he had single-handedly thwarted legions of “pirates, ruffians, scalawags, hoodlums, no-goodnicks, and counterfeiters.”

The counterfeiters part raised my wife’s eyebrows, so that became a running joke. (It was later revealed that, to Eeyore, counterfeiters were people who would break into our house and have fits on our kitchen countertops, “which,” Eeyore emphasized, “is quite unsanitary.”)

And, well, it went on from there. Ellen and I learned a new tidbit about Eeyore just about every day. Eeyore’s favorite song is “Funkytown.”  He is fond of ponies, guinea pigs, and Clint Eastwood movies (especially A Fistfull of Dollars, as that is the one where Eastwood kills four guys for scaring his mule.) Eeyore’s weapon of choice against pirates is a sock full of nickels (or as he describes it, “seventy-five cents worth of mayhem.”) He likes to help Ellen with Sudoku but always suggests the number 11. He often uses bad language, loves to dance, is not fond the pullout sofa, and has a seething dislike for the stuffed squirrel on the other side of the room.

As I write this, I fear this all makes me sound insane. I’m harmless, really.

I also have a point. Adopting this stuffed animal’s personality has stimulated my creativity on more occasions than I can count. Talking through Eeyore keeps me from censoring myself; it allows the ideas I might dismiss an opportunity to be heard out loud.

The most obvious Eeyore-inspired story is a manuscript I’m working on titled The Bed Guardian. Eeyore has also frequently inspired me in smaller ways, a turn of phrase here, a glimmer of a plotline there…

Eeyore has even pitched my wife a few children’s book stories. Mind you, I have him pitch ideas that are deliberately and aggressively terrible (my primary goal with Eeyore is still to amuse my wife, after all). But very few bad ideas – even deliberately bad ideas – are all bad. Once in a while I’ll be speaking as Eeyore and my Mike brain will kick in and think, “Hey! That donkey might have something there! Where’s my notebook?”

Getting that kind of inspiration is well worth looking a little crazy.

And that’s good because, now that I think about it, that stuffed squirrel has been kind of quiet lately. I wonder if he might have anything to add.