It proved to be a gray plush hippopotamus, four and a half feet long, a couple of feet high, and correspondingly bulky. She made it, of course. Paula makes many clever and intricate things.
Justin loved it. He established it in his room and lived with it day and night, using it as a pillow in childhood and beyond. He also vented his frustrations on it, wrestling with it and punching it. He had a lot of frustrations. A strong, energetic, active kid, he was in some sense, as he put it, under house arrest because his interactions with the neighborhood kids often brought grief on all of us. His father had stopped seeing him on weekends when I remarried. His stepfather yelled at him a lot; Justin was a kid who could get yelled at, but Laurie overdid it. My health wasn't reliable, which was hard on everybody. That's a lot for a nine-year-old to deal with.
Paula's sturdy and meticulous stitching held up remarkably well; but the hippopotamus could hardly have taken that kind of punishment indefinitely. Seams leaked, and then burst. Bits of hippopotamus stuffing appeared, and more bits, and bigger pieces, and once a small sofa pillow that Paula had shoved in when the batting was running low. By Justin's early twenties, the hippopotamus was tattered and its stuffing scanty.
Justin brought this pathetic rag to Paula's attention and begged her to save it. Undaunted -- Paula raised three boys of her own -- she took it in hand. The head was held together with a lot of seams but had lost at least one eye and a bunch of stuffing and clung to the body by a few threads (I think it still had both projecting fangs). The body was no better. The only thing for it was to construct a second hippopotamus out of a sheet and line the original hide with it. In two or three places where the damage to the fabric was beyond help or hope, she stitched brightly-colored cotton patches over the holes.