His name could have been anything; I called him Woo-Woo. And he felt it all.
Special, looking out from that Fisher Price shopping cart as the tour guide introduced him to the world as its friend. Needed, watching the tears of sorrow swallowed and converted into drops of ecstasy by the aggrandizing effect of absence. Loved, pulsing with the beat stomping at his plush stomach as he rested his head on the shoulder, eyes closed and lower back compacted by two noodle arms that thrust stuffing into now extended-with-joy limbs.
I’m sure he warned me too. Said there was something wrong: Why would my uncle want to see him? He’s seen him before.
Trust won. Idealism won; but only for a brief moment.
The instant drew no tears. True pain is bottomless, hollow sorrow that only calls for crying in response. A falling action. Secretion the abandonment of life’s essence from the point of sight: the eye.
For the first few seconds, the burning hurts my eyes. I don’t say anything. Horrors have to be believed before they can have any real effect. Then I see the smoke.
The bulb and its ceiling-hung home are obviously out of reach but my arms don’t care. Magnetism draws them if not in the hope of intervention amidst helplessness then at least out of desire for comfort among the flame.
My uncle is laughing.
I consider grabbing the knife resting by the French loaf in my peripheral. But my eyes will not desert those beads, those beads that are all the more painful to watch in their unflinching glass stare.
What else haven’t they blinked for?
These eyes grow larger as they converge on me, I can only assume in anger at my cowardice. Scratch that. Make it justified anger.
He’s had the first part of his fun and now my uncle is floating his victim toward me in a forward-facing beeline like a no-choice exhibition. At first I can’t tell if the massive black hole where his belly should be is real. Then I see a hat.
A cowboy hat. On a stuffed doggy.
Someone says only half his name, but adds a “-dee” at the end. And I begin to notice that those glass beads are now projecting from an Old West sheriff. Just before he descends to my eye level, a glimpse at his shoes snaps a question in the back right corner of my head: Who is Andy?
All these other victims are staring at me. But I’ve never owned a Mr. Potato Head. And my T. Rex didn’t look like that. They begin to talk and I don’t recognize their voice.
I finally move my head, choosing to go down in preparation for a reset and there are these giant…things…coming out of me. I look to my sides and find little more than dark, empty seats and someone I for some reason know.
This place is not my Grandma’s house. That garbage bag is not my uncle. Woody is not Woo-Woo.
Now I know why I feel so bad. Delayed reaction by memory.
This is not my memory; but it is when I watch it.
The name I gave him, they tell me, arose because I was a bit too young for him to be called Woof-Woof. It now looks through the retrospect spectacles of regret like a borderline offensively brazen premonition. Not the woof of a dog indeed, but the lonely howl of a leper wolf.
From the point of view of those who remember childhood as a different point in their lives, “Toy Story 3” is about the value we assign to people, places or things in our life and what happens to us and our environments as we make those decisions. Further, the film is about how those nouns might feel when we take that value back, assuming there is a finite limit on our supply, and how they go about coping with the withdrawals of deprivation, a journey made all the more difficult when the travelers know that they will likely never again pass through the utopia of abundant attention.
But maybe it’s more than that.
As the film’s ability to catalyze vivid recollections and relivings of past incarnations of its viewers clearly illustrates, that part of us is seldom lost. Often it is just thrown into a poorly labeled container and placed into storage somewhere within us waiting to be found and played with.
Thus, when the filmmakers open “Toy Story 3” with a fully realized rendering of a child’s playtime, facilitated by the skills obtained through applying years of hard work and dedication to one’s passion, they are asserting that the adult realm of worldly necessities like income and physical sustenance and the child realm of spiritual necessities like creative expression and free exploration need not be mutually exclusive. They’re living proof.
When Andy plays with Bonnie near the end of the film, revealing the still-vibrant wellspring of imagination within him to be drawn from at will, it is both his and our revelation of just how close these two realms are to each other and the wonderful energy that sprouts forth when they work together.
For, his conscious choice to ferry his plastic children to a home where they will be cared for with the same fervor he used to offer them indicates the kind of decisions that can be arrived at by a more fully developed adult mind. Andy becomes a grown-up almost instantaneously.
Now that he is an adult, he is responsible for fostering the imagination of children, including those left neglected within the inner attics of adults – where those in mint condition and those with burned bellies alike sit in patient, secluded silence.
Because there are few more sorrowful than those deemed no longer fit for their part in a grand story.