The Plush Army
I slept alone a lot as a kid. Being an only child for seven years, with a single mom for at least five of them, I don't have a lot of memories sleeping in a shared room. I have more memories of laying awake at night trying to sleep as shadows swirled around my room in the moonlight.
Like most kids, I didn't like the dark. I had a vivid imagination and I could think of all kinds of fantastical monsters that lived in it. Yet I had a stubborn independence streak; I couldn't go crawling to mom so instead I took a tactical approach.
I assembled a plush army.
Every night, as I climbed into bed, I created a stuffed wall around myself. It started with my first and favorite teddy bear, but a general alone does no good. We recruited stuffed dogs, a Glow-worm, stuffed snakes (I started to choose animals who represented what I thought of as "natural" monsters - all the better to fight against the imaginary ones) and a few more bears. My ritual each night involved making sure they got tucked in around me. I usually did this myself, although occassionally my grandma or ma would help, with a soft chuckle at my horde.
Eventually I realized the stuffed army couldn't replace my real-life support network. Yet good soldiers never die; I kept them all. While I no longer needed them to stand guard at night, I retired them to shelves in my room in places of honor. A few I donated to smaller kids I knew, when I recognized the need for a trustworthy stuff-for-hire. The rest still live with me, carefully tucked away but always prepared for battle.
As a joke for my 20th birthday, my mother got me a giant bear that looked just like my original general - just three times the size. She smiled. "Well, I figured you were bigger so you'd need a bigger bear." It still sits on a table in my bedroom as a tribute to the plushes that kept a small child safe.
My partner laughted at it once when we first moved in together; the death glare I gave quickly ended all future jokes on the matter.
You do not ridicule the honor of teddy bears.
They have fought the darkness for much longer than you.