Sunday, December 18, 2011


Young girls love stuffed animals. They name them and pet them and never forget them. When my sister MaryJo was twelve, she rode out to Minnesota with me in my VW for my wedding. I was driving out two weeks early, and MaryJo, having nothing better to do, came along for the ride. She planned to stay at my future in-laws' farm where she would be involved in a power struggle with a truculent pony named Midnight.
I had most of my possessions packed in the back of my Beetle. Mary Jo had enough clothes for her visit as well as her two favorite stuffed animals. I don't remember their names, but let's call them Bobo and Muffy for now. My VW was in good shape, but I like to worry and the possible breakdown of this vehicle on the road between Boston and St Paul was at the top of my list. The radio was broken so my only distraction was watching MaryJo play “Julia Grownup.” That was the name of her own little cooking show and the glove box was her oven. I love my sister, but this show got old by the time we reached Albany. We stopped for the night east of Cleveland. As I fought through rush hour the next morning I realized it was a mistake not to have pushed on to the west side of Cleveland the night before. No matter, eventually we made it through the city and traffic lightened. MaryJo had just taken her first batch of muffins out of the glovebox when I noticed a stricken look on her face. “Bobo and Muffy! They’re back in the room!” “Well they can stay there,” I said, but soon we were fighting eastbound rush hour traffic as the oven cooled.
Bobo and Muffy were waiting patiently when I entered the room. The desk clerk averted his eyes when I turned in the key, a stuffed animal under each arm.
This event has become a classic McDonnell story, though only MaryJo and I truly appreciate it. I was telling the story to some friends and we wondered what the animals' real names were. I called Mary Jo and she said, “Well you always call them Bobo and Muffy.” It’s funny how names get transmogrified over time. Someone just told me recently that the Bay of Pigs should really be called The Bay of Orangesided Triggerfish.

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