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As babies we were all attached to that one cuddly toy that never left our side. Anthea Wilson’s cuddly toy was no teddy bear but a chicken.

The first man I ever loved was my soft cuddly toy chicken, Chooky. Chooky was curvaceous, with a bright yellow complexion. He had red chicken pox dotted around his body which complimented his red wattle (the dangly thing under a chicken’s beak).

Chooky was a man of science before his time with me. He met and charmed my father at a pharmaceutical conference. Chooky was a sales rep at a competitor’s stall advertising a new chicken pox vaccine when he met my Dad, and Dad somehow knew he was the one for me. Dad returned to his stall with his very own chicken pox chicken intended for his newborn baby girl. Only, disaster struck when Dad realised someone had made off with his chicken. Dad expressed his grief to a Doctor friend who valiantly replaced Dad’s chicken with my Chooky.

After recalling Chooky’s origin story I asked my dad, “So what was it about Chooky that you thought ‘my first born baby girl has to have this chicken?’”

In between our chuckles, he told me, “We actually gave you a few soft toys but you chose the brightly coloured yellow chook with the red spots all over it and you wouldn’t let go of it. You chose it at the end of the day and you would not separate from it. You were inseparable from Chooky.”

He was right; Chooky never left my side growing up. I took him everywhere. Of course he came to preschool with me, so we could stay up during nap time. I was one of those kids that needed to be supervised by the childcare professional during the allocated sleeping hour because I refused to sleep. I was very stop watching Linda, it’s not going to happen. Chooky accompanied mum and I at Coles to do the weekly shop. He’s been to footy games. He has been a happy camper with Dad and I on father-daughter camping trips. He has even been overseas. That’s right people, Chooky’s a world traveler.

Chooky and I got on our first airplane when I was four, we were going on a family holiday to Greece. Chooky came with us to visit relatives in Thessaloniki. It was our last night in Thessaloniki before we were going to visit the Greek islands. We enjoyed a lovely evening with extended family before we got in their car and they drove us back to our hotel. When it was bedtime I had the sudden realisation that I had left Chooky behind. I can’t go to bed without my Chooky, how was I meant to have sweet dreams? Chooky was officially lost in Greece. Luckily, once my relatives returned home they discovered Chooky and drove him all the way back to me. Chooky and I were reunited and I vowed never to lose him again.

Mum reminded me of a common phrase that she would repeat over and over again which was, “Where’s Chooky?” We had to stay on top of Chooky’s whereabouts because he did have a tendency to wander off sometimes.

Chooky was my first love, but I wasn’t his. Chooky fell madly in love with my My Little Pony Pinkie Pie cuddly toy. I’m not too sure when Pinkie came into the picture, but what I do know is that Chooky and Pinkie became my everything. It was the three of us against the world. Chooky and Pinkie were married and we had a wedding on Mum and Dad’s bed. I made an aisle with the folds of the doona cover and I placed Chooky at the end of it to wait for his bride. I trotted Pinkie Pie down the aisle to be wed, with Mum and Dad as witness.

“Do you Chooky, take Pinkie Pie to be your lawfully wedded wife?” I said in my best celebrant voice.

“I do,” Chooky said

“And do you Pinkie Pie, take Chooky to be your lawfully wedded husband?” I ask.

“I do,” Pinkie replied.

“I now pronounce you Husband and Wife. You may kiss the bride!” I exclaimed.

Chooky and Pinkie leaned in for a kiss before I skipped them both back up the aisle. From memory, I believe Chooky and Pinkie got married twice. They had to renew their vows because they were just so in love.

The way I cuddled Chooky and Pinkie was very particular. Pinkie had to go first, I tucked her right underneath my left armpit so the curvature of her pink head would fit perfectly. Then Chooky would rest next to her in the crook of my elbow. It had to be this way and it had to be my left arm doing the cuddling.

As the years went by Chooky’s signature yellow colour began to fade the more I loved him. His red chicken pox seemed to clear up. His red wattle fell off and his right wing also came off. Chooky underwent many operations with Mum’s sewing needle to keep him from falling apart. Chooky has been sewn back together more times than Frankenstein’s monster. At one point, Chooky had a purple gingham heart sewn onto his tummy to keep his stuffing from falling out. His yellow fabric became thinner and thinner to the point where Chooky was now grey with old age. The gingham heart was later removed to reveal a large hole that spanned Chooky’s whole body. He is now covered in holes and pretty much falling apart. I really did love him to death.

Dad took it upon himself to hunt down more Chookys just in case I wanted or needed a replacement. Dad found two Chookys. So now I have three Chookys, all in different stages of life. A beautiful pristine Chooky that looks just like the day I got him (but has never experienced my love); a Chooky that must have spent some time with me because he is slightly discoloured but still intact; and, of course, there is my original Chooky, ripped and torn apart, but full of love.

Although Chooky now lays to rest in my wardrobe, he is still my most precious possession. He filled my childhood with so much joy, love and imagination. He got me through every night with his comforting cuddles and I will remember him forever.


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