"Once upon a time, in a small cabin nestled in the woods, on the side of a tiny mountain, was a wondrous and magical place, called Piglandia.
Piglandia was a great and wonderous place, beaing home to the finest pigs in the land. Not just the fine pigs of Piggie 1 and his twin, Piggie 2, but Piglandia also was home to all the other stuffed babies in this corner of the woods.
In Piglandia Unincorporated, there were some of the first stuffed babies, the ones that pre-dated even Piggie 1. Buster, the pug; Netty, who later became the sister to the pigs, and assorted other little magical, wonderful stuffed plushies.
Piglandia Proper was home to the brother Pigs, where they ruled as rotating kings and Big Bear, the ginormous, bigger than all the royal pigs put together, strummed his guitar. He was a really big bear and took up a lot of prime real estate in Piglandia Proper.
There was no crime in any of the areas of Piglandia because Sheriff Nennie was on patrol, keeping the inhabitants safe from 50 miles away."
"Don't forget her water pistol was full of Jell-O and her pockets were stuffed with biscuits," Cole interjected sleepily.
I smiled. This was one of our rituals. The tale of Piglandia and all of its inhabitants. A place where the stuffed babies and Autobots lived side by side in harmony.
My child, with his tender heart and immense memory, remembers every single toy, who gave it to him, where he was, all the details surrounding it and cherishes each one as the sacred memory it is. They all become members of Piglandia.
"Daddy doesn't respect the pigs," Cole said one day. "He doesn't think they are real. Do you think they are real?"
I nodded. I did and I do. To me, and this little boy with the huge blue eyes, they are real pigs indeed, through and through.
All the inhabitants of Piglandia are real and have meaning and spirits and value that goes beyond what the original price tag said. They all are special, in their own unique way.
When we watched "Toy Story 3" for the first time, seeing Andy's toys being given away, we both broke into the Ugly Cry. I cried, thinking how Andy had grown up and as he headed off to college, he had outgrown his toys. I am not sure what made Cole cry so hard; maybe my "Ugly Cry" frightened him. But we sat on the couch and sobbed.
"Never, not ever, will I get rid of my babies," he said. "I will have them for my children and my children's children."
He said this while wiping his face with the original pig, a pig that is so stained with tears, chocolate and doggie drool that it hasn't been its original pinky beige color in years.
"Did you have a stuffed baby you loved, Mama?"
Oh, I did, I told him. Thumper, my lavender bunny that Granny got me one day at the old five and dime downtown. I chose it over a pair of shoes and never regretted it. I told Cole of all the memories I had with my bunny.
"What happened to Thumper?" Cole wanted to know.
I wasn't sure, I told him honestly. I had put him in the top of my closet, thinking that I had outgrown him. I couldn't remember if he was in a box I took when I moved or not; and if he was, I was quite sure over the course of time and several moves, he was gone.
Tears rolled down his cheeks. "You lost Thumper," he said solemnly. "What if ... am I going to lose Piggie?"
I promised him no, that he wouldn't. That I would help him protect and cherish all of Piglandia forever.
"But ... what if, Mama?" he squeezed the plushies close. "What if I get grown and think I don't need the pigs anymore? I wouldn't mean it. I wouldn't."
"I will take care of them," I promised. "I will be the guardians of the pigs and all of Piglandia, should that ever happen. And I promise that I will not let anything happen to them."
He was quiet for a few minutes then said, "Because you know what happened with Christopher Robin and Pooh."
"Let's don't talk about that," I said.
I didn't want to think about my child growing up and not needing the pigs. It may mean that Piglandia would vanish and with it, the childlike magic of making wishes on stars and other whimsical things. Including me being his No. 1 "sweet girl" who can do no wrong.
What a precious, precarious balance life is, of trying to find our way as we grow. Wanting to hold on to the past, while we reach for the future. And we were holding on tightly to those precious plushy pigs.
He wiped his face with his pigs and looked up at me. "Mama, tell me my story one more time," he said softly. "Please."
I smiled. I'd tell it as many times as he'd let me.
And so I began, "Once upon a time, in a small cabin, nestled in the woods, on the side of a tiny mountain, was a wonderous and magical place, called Piglandia ..."
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist and certified life coach. She lives in the north Georgia mountains with her family and four insane, but fairly well behaved dogs.