Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
“My first best friend’s name was Gaggy. Maybe when I named my stuffed animal cat as a one-year-old, I hadn’t yet mastered how to form the word “cat,” and trying to say it came across as “Gaggy.” Or maybe I just liked that name.
“This is a story about a lesson I learned from that stuffed cat.
“Gaggy was a small plush cat, the perfect size for my little arms to reach around and hug. When Gaggy entered my life, he was ivory colored. A clean, soft, new cat with white paws. His fur was curly like my wild hair back then, so we bonded instantly. As I learned to walk and talk, my brain filling with knowledge, his coloring turned to dark ivory and then to gray. As I grew bigger, his stiff form became limp and floppy. When my hair got longer, his fur became scratchier. I loved that stuffed animal as much as my teeny heart could handle.
“When I went to preschool, my sidekick came along. When I entered kindergarten, there was Gaggy, peeking out of the front pocket in my small purple backpack. He brought me comfort, and he smelled like home: freshly washed sheets and my mom’s perfume.
“But then, disaster struck. I was five and at a music store; my sister and I were plunking away at the pianos. We were laughing and having a great time. We left the store, and when we reached our house, my stomach dropped. I had left Gaggy sitting on that wooden grand piano. He was either all alone left in a loud music store, or some grubby little kid had taken him. I was terrified, crying to my mom about how I lost my best friend. Of course, she didn’t understand the desperation of the situation, but she called the store anyway.
“They said that they’d found a stuffed animal, and they would hold it behind the counter for us to pick up. I was elated; bouncing off the walls with the pure joy only a 5-year-old could muster. But the next day, we went back to the music store. My mom squeezed my hand, and we tentatively stepped in. Up at the counter, my mom explained the situation, but I stood, focused on the cashier. I just wanted him to give Gaggy back. The store clerk smiled and pulled a stuffed animal out from behind the counter. My entire world came crashing down. This wasn’t Gaggy. This was a dog. It was the same size, white, but it was a dog. And it had a soft red bow wrapped around its neck. Gaggy never wore accessories. I couldn’t believe it. I gave it a hug, but it smelled like dirt and dirty laundry, some other child’s adventures.
“My parents bought me a new stuffed cat who looked like a young Gaggy. I liked it, but it looked too white and felt too stiff. It didn’t smell like love; it smelled like Walmart.
“By this point, you may be wondering why the heck I’m telling you this story. It’s not about Shattuck, but it’s about another aspect of all our lives: growth. Accept it. Embrace it. And know that by losing our stuffed animals, we gain something even more important. Independence. Self-reliance. Without Gaggy, I had to face the perils of kindergarten alone. And I was just fine. I even made a few human friends.
“When we all leave Shattuck, we’ll be leaving behind the comfort of our best friends and teachers helping us every step of the way. And it’s important to keep those memories with us as we enter into the daunting but exciting unknown. It seems scary now, but if Gaggy taught me anything, I think we’ll be alright. Thank you.”