His name is Spot, for fairly obvious reasons. I have no memory of actually playing with this toy dog, only of having him, of knowing he was mine. His tail is chewed, as are the edges  of his ears and his right front foot. I don’t know if that was done by a proto-version of me, by a real dog with a taste for soft plastic, or by a toy-destroying-sibling. What I do know that it was me that wrote my name across Spot’s brown and while rear end, irrefutably claiming him as mine.

In all my moves, from house to house, across continents, Spot has been a constant. Relegated to my memory-box, he grins up at me whenever I make foray into that Aladdin’s cave. It’s as if he’s asking me what I’m looking for, as I ferret around amongst birthday cards, diaries, theatre programmes, children’s drawings and report cards.

Spot keeps me company as my fingers wander idly through my past. I drift, lost on a sea of memories, oblivious to the the fading light as I take a brief holiday from the reality that is now. For a while we travel back to other times, other countries, shows I’ve seen, people who have disappeared from my life. Wisps of memory cling like fairly floss, leaving a residue of half-remembered moments that slowly dissolve, little more than a taste and a yearning for more.

Any time in the past 40 or more years I could have ‘re-homed’ Spot, passing him on to a child or dropping him off at a Thrift Store. After all, he’s faded and worn with time, my autograph is barely legible and his little body is no longer flexible. But somehow the moment of betrayal didn’t arrive. I’ve never been able to relinquish this one tangible piece of proof that Nicky-the-child, owner and protector of Spot-the-dog, really did pre-exist the Nicky of now.

How desperate was that little girl to assert ownership if she was prepared to forego the household rule of ‘do no damage’ and actually scrawl her name on this one toy? Was she punished for that, Spot? If so, it was worth it: the predator siblings left you alone. We are still together to share our past.

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